BOWLING GREEN – The Michigan hockey team’s accomplishments from its home-and-home weekend series sweep against Bowling Green:
First place in the CCHA standings? Check.
Shot at a No. 1 ranking? Check.
Outplay the other team? Not so much.
“I think we were lucky,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “Whether it’s holiday hockey or what it is, it’s not the kind of hockey that we’re trying to play.”
The third-ranked Wolverines (11-1 CCHA, 16-2 overall) snuck away with a 4-2 win Friday and 3-2 victory Saturday behind strong play from junior Billy Sauer and freshman Bryan Hogan. Sauer helped Michigan end a two-game losing streak in Bowling Green with 27 saves Friday, and Hogan had some eye-popping stops of his own in his second-career start Saturday. The two, who led the singing of The Victors in the locker room after the game, compensated for the struggling forwards.
Hogan just missed a rare goal in a late-game clear with the Bowling Green net empty, which Berenson jokingly suggested was one of the best offensive moments of the game.
“We didn’t think we had a good period in the game,” Berenson said. “And you saw what kind of a game it was – our goalie had a better chance of scoring than our forwards.”
The Wolverines were outshot through two periods Saturday night, and just one player, freshman Matt Rust, had a positive plus-minus ratio. Michigan also saw its first-period two-goal lead disintegrate in the middle frame before junior Brandon Naurato registered the eventual game winner with six seconds left in the second period.
The previous night, Michigan didn’t score its second goal of the game until less than five minutes remaining in the third frame.
A combined 30 penalties on the weekend added to the ugly play, including a 5-on-3 Bowling Green man advantage and even some 3-on-3 hockey, both in the second period.
“You hate to blame it on the officiating, but the game was choppy,” Rust said. “There were a lot of penalties called both ways. Whether they were bad penalties or not, it slows the game down.”
With the special-teams units dominating playing time, the penalty-kill unit especially stood out. Michigan stifled the country’s second-ranked power-play unit, allowing just two goals in 15 attempts (.133). Rust even came away with a shorthanded goal in Saturday’s opening minutes.
But what stood out from this weekend was that Michigan didn’t overlook a usual CCHA bottom-dwelling team. The Falcons finished last in the CCHA the past two years, and both seasons Michigan lost at Bowling Green (5-5, 8-6). Despite Michigan’s poor play against a revived Falcon team this year, the Wolverines still came away with the sweep.
“We definitely didn’t play our best hockey,” Rust said. “But it’s huge going into the break having two wins, having confidence going into the GLI.”