SAULT STE. MARIE — With a minute and a half left in the
third period and Michigan clinging to a 4-3 lead, Lake Superior
State forward Nathan Ward took a loose puck and skated towards
Michigan goalie Al Montoya with an open path to the net. He juked
left and shot for a chance to send the game into overtime. But
Montoya kept the play in front of him and stoned the point-blank
blast to preserve the win for the No. 4 Wolverines (1-0-0 CCHA,
Just 15 minutes before, Michigan forward Milan Gajic scored the
game winner to complete a come-from-behind victory in which the
Wolverines had trailed 3-1 late in the second period.
“You knew Lake Superior State would come out strong, but
you hoped they wouldn’t score,” Michigan coach Red
Berenson said. “But they did score two (in the first period),
and everything was going in their direction. And I thought it was a
great statement for our team to come back. In the end, we made our
chance count, and that was the difference.”
Gajic’s goal was a treat to watch. Senior Eric Nystrom
tipped the puck away from a Lakers defenseman at the blue line,
keeping the power play attack alive. Sophomore T.J. Hensick
gathered the loose puck and fed Gajic, skating towards the net.
With one swing, Gajic zipped the puck into the lower left corner of
“I just saw T.J. with it, and I was cocked, ready to
fire,” Gajic said. “I was yelling, and he finally saw
me. I shot it and kept my head down. When I brought my head up, it
was already coming back out (of the net). I don’t even know
where it went.”
Lake Superior State’s penalty kill had been busy all
night, and finally made a lethal error in the final period.
“They buried the last goal when one of our upperclass
defensemen made a huge mistake,” Lake Superior State coach
Frank Anzalone said. “I don’t know where he was going,
but the puck was gone and all I heard was, ‘poof.’
(Gajic) didn’t have to do anything — he just
Early on, it looked like the Lakers (0-1-0, 0-3-0) might upset
the Wolverines. The Lakers — the more physical team —
jumped out to an early lead on the power play when Derek Smith
gathered the puck on the boards and spotted teammate Steve McJannet
with some space between the circles. McJannet one-timed a shot
between the legs of Montoya for the opening score of the game
— just seven minutes after play began.
The Lake Superior State struck again 35 seconds later. Senior
captain Bo Cheesman skated down the right side with defenseman
Jason Dest battling him for the puck. Cheesman skated towards the
near post of the Michigan goal, and sent the puck out in front of
Montoya. After a scramble, junior Jon Booras gathered the puck and
beat Montoya high glove side.
At the end of the first period, Michigan — playing with a
man advantage — almost cut into the Lakers’ lead.
Sophomore Matt Hunwick sent two bullets in from the point. The
first slammed off the crossbar, and the second was turned away by
Lakers goalie Jeff Jakaitis.
“I thought our team played better after the 10-minute mark
of the first period,” Berenson said. “It didn’t
show up on the scoreboard until later in the game.”
The two teams traded goals in the second period, and the
Wolverines found themselves in a 3-1 hole with five minutes
remaining in the period.
Then, freshman Kevin Porter cut the lead to one when his
lightning-quick wrist shot from the top of the right circle froze
Just minutes later, Michigan got the equalizer from a familiar
source during a five-minute major power play. Winger Brandon
Kaleniecki, who led the Wolverines in goals last year but had been
held scoreless so far this season, watched as center Andrew Ebbett
skated around the Lakers’ zone.
Ebbett fed the puck into the mouth of the goal, and Kaleniecki
hacked it into the net for his first goal of the season.
“Kaleniecki is one of our hardest working players, night
after night,” Berenson said. “He hadn’t scored
yet, and he’d been fighting it, but he got a big goal