BOWLING GREEN — On senior night at BGSU Ice Arena on Saturday, it was a Michigan senior who spoiled the evening for the Falcons.
Facing a scoreless deadlock early in the third period of the regular-season finale between the No. 3 Michigan hockey team and Bowling Green, senior forward David Wohlberg slung a wrist shot past Falcon goaltender Andrew Hammond. It was the eventual game-winner in Michigan’s 3-0 victory.
But that’s the short version of the story. And you can’t introduce Wohlberg without mentioning freshman forward Alex Guptill in the same breath.
The weekend started quickly for the pair. Too quickly.
Wohlberg, Guptill and linemate Chris Brown, a junior forward, had barely taken a seat on the bench before freshman forward Phil Di Giuseppe led a blitz on the first shift to score the game-opening goal just 38 seconds in.
Michigan coach Red Berenson motioned his top line — Brown, Wohlberg and Guptill — onto the ice to continue the charge.
Instead, Bowling Green slipped through off the draw and punched a shot past fifth-year senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick. It took just six seconds.
The first line was sent to the bench to face a Berenson.
“You score the first goal on the first shift of the game, but then you give up one on the next shift? Come on,” Berenson said after the game. “We’ve got to be better than that.”
The demoralizing shift certainly drew Berenson’s ire, but the defensive-zone letdown and ensuing 4-3 loss to last-place Bowling Green also served as ample motivation for the top line.
“That’s my line’s fault,” Wohlberg said. “We have to be more prepared to start the game, and we obviously weren’t. (Saturday) will be different.”
And it was.
But the turnaround didn’t wait until Saturday. It took a matter of minutes before the line made amends for its defensive miscue.
With five minutes left in the first period, Wohlberg broke the 1-1 draw by stuffing a rebound past Hammond for his 12th goal of the season. Guptill responded late in the second period by driving hard to the net and shoveling Wohlberg’s centering pass into the net to break the 2-2 tie.
It wasn’t enough. Bowling Green toppled Michigan, 4-3, for its fifth victory of the conference slate.
“We just didn’t do the little things right,” Wohlberg said. “We knew coming in what we had to do and we didn’t do it. Period.”
Michigan couldn’t find the twine for another 68 minutes of game action. That’s when Wohlberg broke through for what Berenson called “the opportune goal” on Saturday. It wasn’t the best chance of the night, and it was just one of 49 shots thrown at Hammond, but it was the one that counted.
With 15 minutes left on the game clock and both goaltenders pitching gems, Wohlberg lined up in the offensive zone, to Hammond’s right, to take a faceoff.
Then he got booted from the draw.
“Wally get’s thrown out of a lot of faceoffs,” Berenson said with a smile.
This one worked out perfectly.
The freshman Guptill skated in to replace Wohlberg at the faceoff dot, and Wohlberg lined up directly behind. Guptill won the draw back to Wohlberg, who rifled a wrist shot past a surprised Hammond for the first goal of the game.
“It was funny,” Hunwick said. “Going into that draw, Guptill probably didn’t think he was going to get an assist on the game-winning goal, but it happened that way.”
Guptill and Wohlberg combined for half of Michigan’s six goals on the weekend and each finished with three points.
“I thought they were good again,” Berenson said on Saturday. “They were good (Friday) night, too, they just got on the wrong side of the puck a couple times.
“They were maybe our best offensive line (Friday) night. They were a threat all night tonight.”
The senior-freshman pair of Guptill and Wohlberg has answered the question for the search for the offensive leaders of Michigan. They finished the regular season as the team’s No. 1 and 2 leading scorers. Guptill finished as the leading scorer (16 goals-15 assists-31 points), with Wohlberg right behind (13-17-30).
More impressive, though, is that both finished with a plus-14 plus/minus rating, a marked improvement from Wohlberg’s plus-three last season. Their roles as “plus players,” as Berenson says, is a testament to their dual dedication to the offensive and defensive play.
Ultimately, Wohlberg stole the show on Bowling Green’s senior night. But as it’s been all season, the senior couldn’t have done it without the freshman.