As the Michigan hockey team left the Yost Arena ice in the waning moments after its last home game of the 2000-2001 season, senior Bob Gassoff, as is his custom after every game, waited for his teammates to make their exits before he made his.
His playing career in the old barn concluded, the senior raised his stick in tribute to the scattering crowd, then headed down the tunnel.
Though Gassoff”s gesture was a tribute to the past, his team had just finished paying everyone notice of the future.
In defiance of a season that had gone awry in its second half, the Wolverines started the weekend with an action-packed 8-3 victory over Ferris State on Friday, then followed it up with a hard-fought 3-0 win the next night.
It was the first weekend series since Lake Superior on Jan. 5 and 7 in which Michigan won both games.
The weekend was seemingly characterized more by the extracurriculars after the whistles, than the play between them. While trash-talking and the occasional shove passed between both teams, nothing reminiscent of the two teams” fight-riddled series on Nov. 10 and 11 took place.
The win in the best-of-three series propels the Wolverines into the semifinals of the CCHA championship at Joe Louis Arena next Friday.
“We didn”t want to play another game,” Michigan coach Berenson said. “After (Friday) night we wanted to have a good game tonight, this was important. You didn”t want to have the momentum shift, give them the momentum and give them more confidence.
“Let”s not forget the other team, Ferris State”s a good hockey team.”
Michigan did not escape the weekend without some bad news senior defenseman Dave Huntzicker injured his right shoulder after taking a hit on the boards towards the end of the second period on Friday night, causing him to miss Saturday”s game.
The status of the shoulder is, as of yet, undetermined.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs started the game with an aggressive flurry of shots on goalie Josh Blackburn, courtesy of Rob Collins and Chris Kunitz, en route to outshooting the Wolverines in the period, 10-8. Neither team dominated throughout the remainder of the scoreless first 20 minutes, though Ferris State boasted constant pressure and a shot off the right goal post by defenseman Jim Dube.
“They had us on our heels, they outshot us, outplayed us in the first 10 minutes of the game,” Berenson said. “Had they scored a goal or two, it could have been a different game.”
Josh Langfeld started the scoring at the 4:48-mark of the second, fooling Ferris State”s Phil Osaer short-side for the powerplay goal and 1-0 lead.
The Wolverines pushed the powerplay button again at the 11:35-mark. With Ferris State”s Christian Schroder just four seconds into a holding penalty, Mike Cammalleri took the faceoff in the left circle, made a highlight-reel maneuver around the Bulldogs” defense, and flipped the puck past a handcuffed Osaer for the 2-0 advantage.
It was Cammalleri”s third goal of the series and 25th of the season.
The goal was further proof of Cammalleri”s potency in the series, but it didn”t tell the story. Three times in the second period, Cammalleri set up golden scoring chances, but Osaer, fresh off of surrendering six goals the previous night, was up to the task.
Michigan retreated into a defensive style in the third period and Ferris State found little solace in its chances.
The Bulldogs” best opportunity occurred at the 12:40-mark of the third when Chris Kunitz, denied in the first period, was again stoned on his breakaway attempt by Blackburn, who salvaged the shutout.
Appropriately enough, senior captain Geoff Koch capped his career in Yost in style, scoring an empty-netter with seven seconds left in the game.
In an exciting, wide-open series opener on Friday, Michigan got points from twelve players, including three each from Cammalleri and Joe Kautz.
Cammalleri started the scoring with a power play goal at the 4:13-mark of the first period, fooling Osaer over his right shoulder for the early lead.
Mark Kosick and Langfeld both added on Kosick on a fluke deflection, Langfeld on a well-executed 2-on-1 with John Shouneyia for the 3-0 lead.
Ferris State staged a comeback to start the second period, getting goals from Kevin Swider just over two minutes apart to cut Michigan”s 3-0 first period advantage to 3-2. After a pivotal Blackburn save on a breakaway at the 9:15-mark, the Wolverines came alive with goals from Andy Hilbert, Bill Trainor and Kautz to put the game out of reach for the Bulldogs.
“We got some genuine confidence I think our team learned a bit of a lesson this weekend,” Berenson said.