OXFORD — It was a just a 30-foot pass, but it sent the Michigan hockey team back to Ann Arbor winless in a two-game weekend series for the first time this season.
A day after No. 13 Miami (Ohio) scored three goals in the third period to beat the ninth-ranked Wolverines, 4-2, the RedHawks had a five-on-three power play in the second period of their 3-0 win on Saturday.
Already up 2-0, Miami forward Andy Miele, the leading scorer in the nation, faked the slapshot at the top of the slot, drawing attention to him and away from teammate Pat Cannone. Cannone slid down to senior goalie Shawn Hunwick’s right. Miele gave him the 30-foot pass and Cannone one-timed the puck into the top shelf. The goal effectively ended the series, as Michigan didn’t challenge for the rest of the game.
It also succinctly explained a series that was determined by the Wolverines’ inept special teams play. The calls to put Michigan two-men down were questionable — penalties assessed to sophomore Kevin Lynch and junior defenseman Greg Pateryn on the same play — but it wasn’t out of the ordinary.
The teams combined for 54 penalty minutes on the weekend. Michigan had 28 penalty minutes of their own, including 10 in the first two periods on Saturday.
“I can’t figure it out,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said after Saturday’s game. “We’re one of the least penalized teams in the league and they might be one of the more penalized, and who gets all of the penalties (in) the first half of the game when the game’s on the line? That’s the story of the game.”
The Wolverines went 0-for-10 on the power play in the series, getting just nine shots combined on those man-advantages. Even when Michigan pulled its goalie in the closing minutes on Friday, it had trouble. With the six-on-five advantage, the Wolverines had four shots blocked before Cannone took one of those blocks the other way and tapped in the goal on the empty-net breakaway.
Miami’s game-tying and game-winning goals Friday — in addition to Cannone’s goal on Saturday — were with the extra man.
“Their power play is better than ours,” Berenson said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Looking at the players involved, that little pass by Miele was an even more accurate representation of the weekend than it appears. Miele and Cannone combined for nine points on the series and were involved in all seven goals Miami scored this weekend.
Miele scored the game-tying goal on Friday. Cannone set up the game winner by making a deke on junior defenseman Greg Pateryn that will go on the RedHawk’s season-ending highlight reel. Berenson summed up Miami’s seven goals in two offensive outbursts as concise as possible: “Their best players were their best players.”
The sweep vaulted the RedHawks (13-7-4-2 CCHA, 16-9-5 overall) into first place and dropped Michigan into third behind idle Notre Dame. The Wolverines (14-7-1-0, 17-9-4) have now lost three in a row after their loss to Michigan State last Saturday.
Though the Wolverines do have two games in hand on Miami, they lost their games in hand with second-place Notre Dame by getting swept this weekend.
“I think everyone’s, somehow, looking at (the standings),” Hagelin said. “From now on, we’re going to do everything we can to beat those guys, but at the same time they have to lose some games … We have to prepare for every game like it’s a playoff game.”
One 30-foot pass, one long bus trip home.