DETROIT – Michigan has done its part.

Thanks to a weekend sweep of Lake Superior State – including Saturday night’s 5-0 win over the Lakers at Joe Louis Arena – and a split by Ferris State against Miami, the Wolverines are now four points behind first place in the CCHA.

What made the sweep over last-place Lake Superior State so important is what the Wolverines overcame to get it: They lost defenseman Eric Werner for academic reasons, scratched junior Andy Burnes because of a strained groin, made a long trip to Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday night and had to rebound from blowing a third-period lead to Western Michigan two weeks ago.

“When teams above us start losing games and give us a chance, that’s what we need,” Michigan freshman Jeff Tambellini said. “When we get a chance to bury a team like Lake State, we can’t afford to ease up.”

Although easing up was never part of the Wolverines’ vocabulary on Saturday, they kept the Lakers in the game thanks, in part, to a lack of good scoring chances. Even with the shots tied at nine at the end of the period, Michigan coach Red Berenson commented afterward that the Lakers dictated play. But after the scoreless first period the Wolverines came out with four second-period goals and an 18-6 shot advantage.

“I don’t know if there was much of a change (in between periods), we were just trying to wear them down (by) getting the puck in deep,” Michigan senior Jed Ortmeyer said. “Thursday night in the first period things were pretty much clicking for us, then later in the game we were getting a little sloppy. The start (Saturday) was a little sloppy, but as the game went on, we got a little more comfortable and executed well.”

The Wolverines continued their even-strength success – they had four even-strength goals Thursday – when they got on the board 2:54 into the period. Forward Dwight Helminen drove through the middle of Lake Superior State’s defense and dished the puck to sophomore Michael Woodford, who was alone in the right faceoff circle. Woodford then beat Lakers’ goaltender Matt Violin five-hole for the lead that Michigan would never relinquish.

One minute later, Michigan attacked again when Ortmeyer crashed the net. Although the captain didn’t score, the rebound from his shot left a wide-open net for Tambellini, who buried his 14th goal of the year. Ortmeyer had the assist on the next goal too, as sophomore Eric Nystrom redirected Ortmeyer’s powerplay shot past Violin. The Michigan captain did finally get a goal attributed to him when defenseman Brandon Rogers found him for another powerplay goal at 18:07 of the period.

“They’re a team that, if they’re still in the game at the end of the game, they’re going to play as hard as say, Ohio State would,” Tambellini said. “Our goal was to come out and crush them and get out in front as fast as we could. So I think the second and third goals were a dagger.”

Tambellini also added the fifth goal – Michigan’s third powerplay goal – when senior John Shouneyia found him alone for the tally at 1:26 of the period.

Unlike when the Wolverines scored early in the third period on Thursday – prompting Lake Superior State coach Frank Anzalone to pull Violin for freshman William Ciccone – Violin stayed in the game even after allowing his fifth goal

“I think Matt was in control – he’s fighting the puck a little bit,” Anzalone said. “I think for his honor and our future, I think he needed to work those druthers out. And he did in the third. He had battled all the way through. He has not felt comfortable in the net and I think it’s important that he learns how to do that. He did a fine job. He should have stopped two (of the five), but we’re also seeing a lot of chances (42 shots Saturday night) constantly.

“It’s like six-footers playing seven-footers in basketball. No matter what we do in the first eight minutes it’s not going to last the whole game. The seven-footer’s going to dunk sooner or later, and that’s where we’re at right now.”

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