By Ryan Sosin
Daily Sports Writer
As Michigan captain Eric Nystrom watched the puck go from his stick into the net midway through the third period Friday, a weight seemed to be lifted off his shoulders. When the Wolverines senior threw his arms in the air, he looked to be breathing a sigh of relief as much as he was celebrating.
It had been 55 days since Nystrom had celebrated one of his own goals. His last came when he fired a bullet past Michigan State goalie Dominic Vicari in November.
“I’ve had some chances,” Nystrom said. “I’ve been playing good defensive hockey and that’s good, but you always want to put a puck in the net.”
Freshman Chad Kolarik fed the puck to Nystrom in the slot, and he put it in the back of the net.
“Tonight it was just sitting there, waiting for me,” Nystrom said. “And the red light went on, and I forgot what to do. I didn’t know what to do.”
He didn’t have to wait nearly as long to score again, tallying his fifth goal of the season on Saturday. Taking advantage of the Nanooks’ freshly inserted backup goalie Keith Bartusch, Nystrom grabbed a rebound and slid it around the spread-out netminder.
During the recent scoring slump, Nystrom’s contributions were not lost on Michigan coach Red Berenson. In the 10 games between goals, the senior had six assists and a plus-five rating. Berenson also commented on Nystrom’s intangibles, such as his physical presence and leadership.
“He’s the glue on anything he does out there — penalty killing, power play,” Berenson said. “But it’s still nice to see him get rewarded (with a goal) for his hard work.”
Hensick keeps scoring: The phrase “you can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him,” is becoming ever more relevant to Michigan forward T.J. Hensick. In each of the last seven games, the Michigan sophomore has at least two points, and his plus-minus rating rose from plus-three to plus-nine. With a goal and an assist Saturday night, Hensick is now averaging 1.52 points per game.
“I’ve felt great since I’ve come back from the World Juniors,” Hensick said. “Things have been going my way right now, and, hopefully, they can stay that way.”
His defensive game has also improved over that span. Throughout the weekend, Hensick chugged from end to end to be a force on both sides of the rink.
“He’s starting to roll,” Berenson said. “Good for him. Not just starting, he’s playing well every night.”
Tambellini hits century mark: There was no big celebration. No one grabbed the puck for a souvenir. Tambellini left the ice on Friday, seemingly, still stuck on 99 points.
But as the Wolverines sat in the locker room after Friday’s 5-2 win over Alaska-Fairbanks, the official scorer added an assist by the Michigan alternate captain to Nystrom’s goal — giving Tambellini his 100th career point.
Tambellini didn’t sit on 100 points for long, depositing the first goal Saturday when he cut across Wylie Rogers’s crease and put home his 12th goal of the season and 101st point of his career.
Handing out the hardware: For the second-straight week, Michigan defenseman Matt Hunwick took home CCHA Defenseman of the Week honors. Hensick also took home hardware for his efforts against Alaska-Fairbanks, earning CCHA Offensive Player of the Week award.
Hensick put up back-to-back, one-goal-one-assist nights en route to his third weekly award.
Hunwick, who won the same award last week, was plus-four on the weekend and scored the crucial game-winning goal in Friday’s win. Hunwick has a goal and five assists since returning to Ann Arbor after the World Juniors. Hunwick said his offensive surge isn’t due to anything in particular, aside from being more aggressive and not dumping the puck as quickly.
“(I’m) just focusing on getting the puck to the net a lot more,” Hunwick said. “I think it’s a mentality, not just my shot.”
Notes: With his goal Saturday, Michigan senior Milan Gajic has scored a goal in every CCHA series except for Miami (Ohio) … Tambellini wasn’t the only Wolverine hitting milestones against Alaska-Fairbanks. Michigan senior defenseman Brandon Rogers and sophomore forward T.J. Hensick both reached 50 helpers in their careers.