BIG RAPIDS – After clinching its first CCHA regular-season championship since 2005 Friday night, the maize-clad Michigan hockey team leapt off the bench and mobbed goaltender Billy Sauer.

The next night, Ferris State returned the favor.

The No. 1 Wolverines won 5-3 Friday to cement their place atop the conference standings, but couldn’t finish off the sweep Saturday, falling 4-3 in overtime to the Bulldogs at R.L. Ewigleben Ice Arena.

“A lot of people had us clinching first place, and then the season was over,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said after Saturday’s loss. “Well, it’s not over. That’s just a part of it, so we’ve got to get past this game and regroup.”

Fighting neck-and-neck with Miami (Ohio) for the conference championship, Michigan needed to take at least two points out of a possible four with Ferris State to clinch. But the Bulldogs’ scrappy defense looked like it would give the Wolverines trouble from the start.

Friday night, Michigan mustered just six shots on goal in the first period, while rifling more than twenty shots off-target. The same Ferris State defense that held offensive powerhouse Miami to just one goal in an upset win two weeks ago seemed poised to stifle the Wolverines in a similar fashion.

But Michigan (20-4-4 CCHA, 27-5-4 overall) settled down offensively in the second frame, focusing more on crisp passing to sustain possessions inside the Bulldog zone, which produced more scoring opportunities.

And they took advantage of those chances, notching three goals in the second period. Michigan might have put the game out of reach had it not been for Ferris State’s surprisingly efficient power-play unit.

Coming into the series, the Bulldogs were converting just 15.5 percent of their power-play chances. On Friday night, they went 3-for-7 with the man advantage, answering each of Michigan’s first two goals with a power-play tally.

“They were moving the puck around quickly, and it was getting our guys out of position and they were getting shots through,” senior Kevin Porter said. “Billy can’t see everything, so when they were getting them through and banging the rebounds, I think we were having problems.”

The Wolverines’ penalty-killing woes carried over to Saturday. In the first five minutes of the game, some of Michigan’s most lackluster and uninspired of the season, Ferris State (12-12-4, 15-14-5) notched two man-advantage goals on backup goalie Bryan Hogan.

Although Hogan’s nerves may have had something to do with the less-than-stellar start – the freshman was playing in his first-ever road game – the penalty-kill unit showed the same lack of rotation and shot blocking, which didn’t give Hogan time to get comfortable in the crease.

“I think I could count the number of blocked shots this weekend on one hand,” junior Mark Mitera said. “We just weren’t clearing pucks. We weren’t giving our goalie a chance.”

The Wolverines have two weeks to work out their kinks with a first-round bye in the CCHA Tournament. In addition to the penalty kill, freshman Max Pacioretty said Michigan will have to stay in shape and focus on “the little things” to get ready for the tournament.

“We’re not ready for the playoffs, yet,” Pacioretty said. “We have two weeks to work on everything we need to work on, so I think it’s good that we have the weekend off.”


3: Years since Michigan’s last regular-season CCHA championship. The last time the Wolverines won the conference title was in 2005.

97: Combined point total for seniors Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik, who finished 1-2 in the CCHA in points. The duo still finished on top even after Kolarik was forced to miss the last four games of the regular season after a hamstring injury on Feb. 2.

21: Number of assists for freshman Aaron Palushaj, who finished first in the CCHA. Palushaj and freshman Max Pacioretty also joined Porter and Kolarik in the top 10 of the points standings.

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