DETROIT – They fell into the trap, but there was no time for the eighth-ranked Wolverines to wallow in their misery.
Immediately after losing 3-2 to last-place Bowling Green on Friday night, the Michigan hockey team had to prepare for its crucial matchup with No. 6 Michigan State at Joe Louis Arena less than 24 hours later.
Everyone wondered: How could Michigan bounce back quickly after a potentially crippling loss?
“We’ve just got to work a lot harder than we did tonight,” senior captain Matt Hunwick said Friday night.
And the Wolverines did just that. Michigan dominated play in the first period in all but one category: goals.
Despite controlling the early pace of the game – the Wolverines outshot Michigan State 18-10 in the first frame – Michigan fell behind 2-0 in the first period.
Heading into the first intermission, Michigan coach Red Berenson still thought the Wolverines were solid despite the two-goal deficit.
“Michigan carried the play the first 10 minutes and maybe didn’t capitalize,” Berenson said. “We got some momentum going and we played well.”
Berenson wasn’t so pleased with the next 10 minutes, a stretch in which Michigan allowed two goals. The letdown mirrored Friday night when Michigan scored just over a minute into the game, but couldn’t keep control of the game as Bowling Green came back to win.
But Michigan took back the pace of the game in the second period and kept it in the final stanza, making the three-goal comeback possible.
Standing tall: Don’t worry, you won’t have to come back early from spring break for Michigan’s first CCHA playoff series.
The Wolverines’ comeback tie last night, coupled with Nebraska-Omaha skating to a 2-2 tie, clinched a first-round bye for the Maize and Blue in the CCHA playoffs.
Michigan will host a quarterfinal series March 9-11 at Yost Ice Arena.
The Wolverines stand to benefit from the bye week more than most teams. Michigan hasn’t had a weekend off since the beginning of January.
The Wolverines currently sit third in the CCHA standings with 33 points. Miami (Ohio) has 34 points but has two fewer games remaining on its schedule.
With two more games than Miami (Ohio) remaining, Michigan will likely finish ahead of the RedHawks in the final standings. The real race will be between the Wolverines and the Spartans for the second spot.
Michigan State has two fewer points than Michigan but one more game to play.
The Wolverines hold the tiebreak over the Spartans by benefit of a 2-1-1 head-to-head conference record.
The archrivals have actually played five times this season, but Michigan State’s 4-1 win in the Great Lakes Invitational final doesn’t count toward the CCHA standings.
Notre Dame is practically locked into the conference’s top spot. The Fighting Irish have 39 points.
Injury update: Brian Lebler spent last week recovering from a shoulder injury, and it looks like he’ll be back in the training room again this week.
The freshman suffered a leg injury in the third period of Saturday night’s game.
Lebler said he was “alright” as he left Joe Louis Arena, two Little Caesar’s pizzas in hand, limping slightly.
Lebler played on the fourth line alongside fellow freshman Anthony Ciraulo and sophomore Danny Fardig this weekend. Chris Summers replaced Lebler on Michigan’s second line for both games.
Not-so-friendly Joe: The trip from East Lansing is about twice as far as the one from Ann Arbor, but Michigan State has made Joe Louis Arena feel like home against Michigan recently.
The Spartans are unbeaten in their last seven games against the Wolverines at Joe Louis Arena. Dating back to 2003, Michigan State is 4-0-3.