Michigan coach Red Berenson had a single regret from the Wolverines’ 3-1 Senior Night victory on Feb. 3.
With just a one-goal lead before freshman Chris Summers added an empty-net goal in the final minute, Berenson had no opportunity to thank an oft-overlooked team leader, senior goaltender Mike Mayhew, with a few minutes of playing time.
For four years, Mayhew has toiled as Michigan’s third-string netminder, skating with the team in practice each day. He spent games keeping track of hits and turnovers while standing behind the bench.
But despite his leadership skills and selflessness, which have endeared him to his teammates and Michigan fans, the senior had compiled just 32 minutes of playing time over his first three years in Ann Arbor. And this season, with sophomore Billy Sauer maturing into an everyday goaltender and freshman Steve Jakiel being groomed as the team’s No. 2 goalie, Mayhew had yet to play a minute entering Saturday’s CCHA quarterfinal contest.
So when senior T.J. Hensick completed his hat trick with the Wolverines’ final goal in their 8-3 victory over Northern Michigan on Saturday, it was, much to the raucous crowd’s delight, Mayhew’s time to shine.
Berenson substituted Mayhew for Sauer at the 14:33 mark of the third period, giving the senior one final chance to play.
Even coming in cold, Mayhew was excited about the opportunity.
“I’ve played enough hockey in my life so I wasn’t nervous,” Mayhew said. “It was more that I’m a little cold right now, not exactly feeling in top shape compared to if I had warmed up and started the game. So there’s a little anxiety there, but I’m not really worried, not really nervous.”
Mayhew’s lack of anxiety was apparent while on the ice, as the senior stopped both shots he faced.
Mayhew has likely seen his last game action in maize and blue but knows he can continue to serve the team in other ways.
“I’ve played for a winning program (in high school) and that was enough to make me want to be part of the program here knowing that playing time was going to be scarce,” Mayhew said. “I was comfortable that I could help the team in other ways, and I’m around the best friends I could ever have.”
Power played: There are many great moments to remember from Saturday’s game, but one black mark is the performance of Michigan’s penalty kill.
All three of the Wildcats’ goals came on the power play. Sauer’s teammates left him out to dry on breakaways and allowed a screened shot.
Cogliano knows that heading into a game against Michigan State, the Wolverines must improve on special teams to earn a championship-game berth.
“There’s going to be quite a few calls when we play Michigan State both ways,” Cogliano said. “We’ll be on the penalty kill a lot, and the guys who are on the penalty kill definitely need to do a good job. When we get on the penalty kill against Michigan State, they’re obviously going to do a good job, and they’re probably going to score. We’ve got to eliminate their chances and not take penalties.”
The Wolverines and Spartans have met five times this season, splitting the series 2-2-1. Michigan’s penalty kill has been a telling factor in all five matchups, as Michigan State went 5-for-11 in its two victories, but just 1-for-13 in the two losses.
Home sweet home: While Michigan fans were disappointed that their team couldn’t catch Notre Dame in the CCHA regular-season title race, the Wolverines faithful came out in droves to take advantage of the home ice which comes with a top-four finish in the league.
Berenson has always been complimentary of the hometown crowd, but took particular note Saturday night.
“I said before the weekend, home ice is only as good as our team, but our fans get caught up in the game better than any fans,” Berenson said. “I don’t know about in the country, but certainly better than any we have seen lately. It’s just terrific.”
The influence of the fans was also felt by the players on the ice. Sophomore Andrew Cogliano, who scored two goals and notched two assists in the game, credited the crowd.
After senior T.J. Hensick notched his third goal of the game, the crowd showered the ice with hats to salute the Howell native’s achievement.
“We knew it was going to be a big crowd before the game started,” Cogliano said. “In the game, it was nice for them to see (senior T.J. Hensick) get his hat trick. Throughout the game, they gave us a lot of inspiration and a jump.”