All the bounces went Michigan’s way in Friday night’s 10-1 win. On Saturday, there were no bounces, just grind it out in the corner, old-time hockey.
Through the clutching, grabbing and, at times, fighting, Michigan (29-5-4 overall) battled it’s way to a 2-1 win over Nebraska-Omaha (17-19-4) to sweep the CCHA quarterfinal and earn a 19th consecutive trip to Joe Louis Arena.
But the news wasn’t all good, as Michigan suffered another hit to its lineup. Not in the form of another injury, but instead an automatic one-game suspension for freshman Max Pacioretty for fighting.
Just over six minutes into the second period, tensions boiled over between the teams after freshman Aaron Palushaj ran over Nebraska-Omaha goalie Jerad Kaufamann. Quickly, all 10 skaters paired up for some pushing and shoving. The tussle between Pacioretty and Nebraska-Omaha defenseman Nick Von Bokern’s quickly escalated into a full-on fight and both earned game disqualifications, which include an automatic one-game suspension.
While the referees were sorting out penalties, the on-ice intensity jumped over the glass as members of the Nebraska-Omaha family section argued with a Michigan fan. The maize-clad spectator appeared to taunt the Maverick faithful, which led to a shove. Police officers escorted the visiting fan from the stands.
Following the fight momentum shifted in Nebraska-Omaha’s favor. Michigan struggled to hold its lead for the next 13 minutes before it had a chance to go into the locker room and regroup.
The Mavericks continued to bring pressure unsuccessfully in the third period, making for a rough final period for Michigan and the Yost Ice Arena crowd. But early on in the game it looked as though Saturday would go just as smooth as Friday.
Brandon Naurato got Michigan on the board for a second straight night a little more than three minutes into the game. Naurato outskated a Maverick defenseman to Brian Lebler’s clearance, then he cut across the slot and beat Nebraska-Omaha goalie Jerad Kaufmann glove side.
Michigan got a two-goal lead with just 63 seconds left in the first period. Once again it came on a repeat performance. Freshman Carl Hagelin put on a one-man show cutting through the neutral zone, then skated around a defenseman before beating Kaufmann five-hole.
Despite trailing, Nebraska-Omaha’s first period was much better Saturday than Friday. The Mavericks put up seven shots on Michigan goalie Billy Sauer – as opposed to two Friday – and had some periods of sustained pressure.
Better still for the visitors in the first period, Kaufmann made some crucial saves.
His best save of the period came on a point-blank chance for Max Pacioretty. The Wolverine had him beat, but Kaufmann extended his glove to snatch the puck.
The Mavericks did get on the board more than five minutes into the period on the power play. Dan Charleston banged home a slick pass from Bill Bagron, despite Kolarik’s defensive pursuit.
Turnovers nearly gave Nebraska-Omaha they tying goal multiple times. But instead of forcing a decisive game three, the Mavericks couldn’t solve Sauer and saw their season end by the slimmest of margins.