Many recruits have cited wearing Michigan’s iconic winged-helmets as a reason for playing for the Michigan hockey team. But never have the wings contributed so directly to winning a game as they did on Saturday on the road against Alaska-Fairbanks.
Early in the third period with the score tied at two, sophomore Chris Brown put the puck on net. After a series of deflections, the puck bounced off sophomore center A.J. Treais’s helmet and into the net. It turned out to be the winning goal.
“There’s a first time for everything I guess,” Treais said Saturday night.
After trading goals throughout the first two periods, Treais’s goal ignited No. 5 Michigan’s third-period efforts. The Wolverines added on two more to win, 5-2, Saturday in the Carlson Center, rebounding from a 3-0 loss Friday.
Treais, who had 13 points last season, hadn’t recorded a point in nine games this season coming into Saturday, but responded at a time when the Wolverines needed him. He played well defensively, finishing plus-3, and scored three points.
“It’s just interesting how hockey works that usually when you have a good game, you’re working away from the puck, especially the center because the center has to do a lot of work down low in the defensive zone,” Michigan assistant coach Billy Powers said. “It was a good solid effort all around for A.J., and I think it started with his work ethic without the puck and big things happened with it.”
Treais’s effort in the second game was needed, because though Michigan had a different cast, with senior goaltender Bryan Hogan playing both games due to senior Shawn Hunwick having a stomach bug, the game wasn’t any different from their previous series openers. The Wolverines (4-1-1-0 CCHA, 5-2-3 overall) have now lost three straight Friday night games and won three straight Saturday games.
On Friday, the same mistakes plagued Michigan as in their previous two weekends, as it could not generate a lot of shots and gave up an early goal.
In game one, No. 15 Alaska’s Cody Kunyk beat senior defenseman Chad Langlais to the puck on the backdoor after it deflected off a skate and put it into the open net. The goal came midway through a first period in which the Nanooks (3-2-1-1, 6-3-1) controlled the play from the opening faceoff, outshooting the Wolverines 12-5, but could only muster one goal.
“They got us on our heels early,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said after Friday’s game. “Whether it was the penalties or the turnovers, the first period the chances were something like 12-2 (for Alaska). We were lucky to survive the first period.”
That goal was all the Nanooks needed, as their defensive style, which had Alaska second in the nation in goals against, suffocated Michigan in the neutral zone. Their style, combined with a key 5-on-3 penalty kill midway through the second and a few unlucky post shots for the Wolverines, shut out Michigan for the first time in 35 games.
As unlucky as Friday was with hitting the posts, Michigan had two goals, including Treais’s, go in off deflections on Saturday. Michigan is now 1-2-1 on Friday nights and 4-0-2 on Saturday.
“I know it’s been a little bit of a trend on Friday, but this is a unique deal. Coming out on Friday, they just had more jump and we didn’t have our legs,” Powers said. “As the Friday game wore on we were getting better and better and I think it was just kind of getting the travel fatigue or whatever you want to call it out of your system.”