On Senior Night last year, Michigan gave up a three-goal third-period lead and lost to Ferris State.

For his senior night this year on Saturday, senior David Rohlfs made sure that disappointment wasn’t repeated.

Playing short-handed just more than five minutes into the third period, Rohlfs snapped a backhand shot from between the rings past Western Michigan goalie Riley Gill’s glove. That goal broke a 1-1 tie and put Michigan ahead for good in its 3-1 win at Yost Ice Arena.

The victory was the Wolverines’ sixth straight, and their eighth in the past nine games.

“It was definitely on a lot of people’s minds how we felt last year,” senior captain Matt Hunwick said. “We didn’t want to go out that way.”

Hunwick tried to inspire a whatever-it-takes mentality throughout the game.

Rohlfs got the message on his third-period goal.

Rohlfs battled a Bronco defender for the puck near the right boards and tipped it free to the middle of the ice, where he fired the shot on net for his 15th goal of the year.

But it wasn’t just on the offensive end where Rohlfs showed his desperation.

On a Bronco power play later in the third period, Michigan goalie Billy Sauer was caught out of position and without a stick, leaving Hunwick as the lone Wolverine protecting the other side of the net. The puck bounced out to the point where Western Michigan (9-12-1 CCHA, 12-15-1 overall) unleashed a shot toward the net. Rohlfs got down on the ice and blocked the puck before it reached the net, keeping his team up, 2-1.

Sauer might have been caught out of position on that particular play, but he turned in what alternate captain T.J. Hensick called his best game of the season – quite a compliment considering Sauer’s 8-1-0 record and 2.11 goals against average since the beginning of the year.

In one sequence in the second period, Western Michigan entered the Michigan zone on a 3-on-1 rush with the game knotted at one. Sauer lunged to his right to make a huge pad save on the right post. Then, he launched his body toward the left post to make a dramatic glove save on a wrap-around attempt.

The Walworth, N.Y., native stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced.

“He battled; he made a difference in the game,” Berenson said. “To win this game, somebody had to make a big save, and he did.”

The solid goalkeeping at both ends of the ice kept the score low, but tough team defense also played a role. Both games this weekend featured big hits and physical play that kept the Yost crowd entertained Saturday, despite the low goal count. The crowd was particularly entertained when freshman Anthony Ciraulo upended a Bronco defender along the boards.

As the season heads toward the playoffs, Michigan (16-6-0, 21-9-0) realizes the importance of being able to play in hard-fought, low-scoring affairs like Saturday.

In the second half of the season, Berenson has harped on the importance of keeping goals against down.

“It was good experience game for us because as we look ahead, the games are going to get tighter and tighter,” Berenson said.

Unlike Saturday’s four-goal game that could have gone either way, Michigan’s 7-4 win on Friday night in Kalamazoo featured a clear Wolverine advantage throughout.

Hensick led the way for the Wolverines in Kalamazoo with a four-point night (2 goals and 2 assists). His assist on Travis Turnbull’s first period goal was his 200th career point.

“It’s a special moment when I got that point,” Hensick said. “It’s that I’ll remember when I get older.”

The Howell native is the NCAA leader with 50 points (14-36), followed by linemate Kevin Porter, who has 18 goals and 30 assists.

Whereas those linemates normally get the spotlight, it was their other linemate, Rohlfs, whose star shone the brightest on Saturday.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.