The Ferris State hockey team came into Yost Ice Arena on a roll. The Bulldogs swept perennial power Miami (Ohio) the previous weekend and rose all the way up to No. 6 in the polls.
Ferris State’s defense was doing it all, allowing just five goals through six games, including three shutouts.
But then the Bulldogs came to Ann Arbor. On Thursday night, No. 4 Michigan doubled Ferris State’s goals allowed season total en route to a 5-2 victory.
Friday was supposed to be different for the Wolverines, though, with freshman goaltender C.J. Motte in net for the Bulldogs. Motte had allowed only one goal all year, sitting pretty with a .986 save percentage.
Michigan (2-1-1 CCHA, 6-1-1 overall) blew past Ferris State (2-2-0, 6-2-0) again on Friday night, continuing its offensive explosion and sweeping the Bulldogs with a 4-0 victory.
“It’s a good weekend for us,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Those are games we had to have. We had to establish ourself at home and get back in the conference race. I think we took a step this weekend.”
On Friday night, Michigan struck first in the first period when sophomore forward Derek DeBlois slid a backward, between-the-legs pass to freshman forward Alex Guptill, who buried the shot in the top right corner of the net.
After that, the Wolverines were off to the races, scoring three goals in the second period.
Offensively, Michigan moved the puck, didn’t try to beat anyone one-on-one and waited patiently for a chink in the armor to present itself. The Wolverines didn’t force anything in the offensive zone, but instead waited for rebounds and open scoring opportunities.
Michigan’s third goal of the game came on a rebound off a breakaway that junior forward A.J. Treias cleaned up with Motte on his back from two previous saves. A goalie is only able do so much, and the Wolverines never let up on Motte.
“We have so much power and so much depth,” said junior forward Chris Brown. “We’re putting the right guys with the right guys right now, and we are getting our chances.”
Earlier in the week, Berenson talked about beating a good defensive team with even better defense. Goals allowed are even more valuable when scoring chances on the other end are limited. Leading up to the game against the tough Ferris State defense, Michigan wasn’t focusing on its offense. Instead, Michigan was focusing on its defense.
Berenson got what he was looking for in senior netminder Shawn Hunwick, who recorded 24 saves in Michigan’s second shutout of the season on Friday.
Hunwick seemed locked in from the very beginning, never ceding an inch. Ferris State didn’t score on seven power-play chances. It also helped that four close shots hit off the post — there’s nothing wrong with a little luck.
“It’s a huge confidence booster for everyone in the locker room to know we can go up against a CCHA team and give up nothing,” Hunwick said. “Down the road, if we have to beat teams 1-0, that’s OK.”
Scoring nine goals in two games against anyone is impressive, but doing it against Ferris State’s defense is a great sign for a young offense that had so many question marks entering the year.
With six freshmen getting significant playing time, not even Berenson knew how the offense was going to play early on in the season. So far, there hasn’t been an issue.
“(The freshmen) are just filling in for what we lost,” Brown said. “That’s kind of what Michigan does. We don’t lose, we just reload.”