What was once a cannon turned into a broken pistol.
The Colorado College powerplay started the game as a well-oiled machine, scoring with the greatest of ease on its first two shots on the powerplay. The nation’s best extra man unit went to work during its first opportunity, scoring 16 seconds after Jed Ortmeyer received an interference penalty. After winning the faceoff, forward Noah Clarke sent the puck from the point to Peter Sejna, who found Brett Sterling right in front of the net to easily deflect the puck in to the right side past goalie Al Montoya.
Just over two minutes later, Eric Nystrom was called for checking from behind, and Sejna tipped in a pass from Clarke just over a minute into a four-on-three. Montoya had no chance of making a stop on either of the two goals that made the Michigan penalty kill look nothing like the second-best unit in the nation.
“They made it look easy,” associate head coach Mel Pearson said. “We were hoping we weren’t going to have to kill another one.”
But the Tiger arsenal disappeared in the second and third periods. While the Wolverines were finishing off killing a Jeff Tambellini cross-checking call transferred into the start of the second period, Mark Mink stole the puck from behind the Tiger net and scored Michigan’s eighth short-handed goal of the season.
Colorado College would then fail to get a shot off in its final three powerplays. Michigan started to anticipate the patterns of the Tiger powerplay and put more pressure on.
“They knew where they were going to move the puck before they even got it,” said defenseman Andy Burnes, who was on the ice for both Tiger powerplay goals. “In order to combat that we had to anticipate a little more. We had to think a step ahead and know where they were going. We really didn’t know what to expect.”
After Mike Roemensky got an obstruction-holding penalty at 5:11 of the second, the Wolverine penalty kill cleared the puck four times and never allowed the Tigers to get any sort of offensive set going.
“They pressured us a little bit better,” Colorado College defenseman Tom Pressing said. “They got to us all over the ice. They didn’t just wait to get in to our zone. That was definitely a factor at stopping us near the end.”
After Brandon Rogers was called for hooking 3:31 into the third period, Colorado College was not even able to get the puck into the Michigan zone until Andrew Canzanello was called for hooking 48 seconds later. Then, in the final Tiger powerplay after a Ortmeyer boarding call, the puck spent the majority of the two minutes in the Colorado College end.
“It’s easy to go out and make adjustments, but you have to go out and execute it on the ice,” Pearson said. “They did a fabulous job with the adjustments.”
Shutting down the Tiger powerplay effectively shut down the whole offense. The only even strength Colorado College goal was off a Michigan zone turnover, and the Tigers had just five third period shots.
It was a hefty accomplishment for the Wolverines to go up against a unit that had scored on more than 30 percent of its powerplays going into this weekend’s regional. In Saturday’s opening round game against Wayne State, Colorado College generated almost all of its scoring chances on the powerplay and scored three of its four goals on five opportunities with an extra man.
The performance, will bode well for the Wolverines’ penalty kill as it will go up against the nation’s fifth-best powerplay when they play Minnesota – the Wolverines’ second-best penalty kill will be tested once again in Buffalo, N.Y.
“Our penalty kill has been strong all year,” Burnes said. “We had a couple breakdowns out there, but it was just hard work is all it comes down to.”