The goals weren’t that flashy. Unlike in previous weeks, hat tricks didn’t dominate headlines. And Wolverine coach Red Berenson called one of the games “ugly.”
But even so, the Michigan hockey team was dominant in a crucial series sweep, soundly beating No. 6 Miami (Ohio) 5-1 Saturday and 4-0 Sunday in Yost Ice Arena. Friday’s game was postponed to Sunday afternoon due to weather and structural damage to the arena.
Six weeks ago, the RedHawks swept the Wolverines in Oxford in a series where Michigan managed just one goal — the same offensive output Miami had this weekend. After the pair of losses in November, Berenson lamented that some of his players hadn’t scored in over a month.
This time around, offense came swiftly and easily with nine different Wolverines finding the back of the net in a surprising scoring barrage — one that didn’t include the team’s points leaders, Louie Caporusso and Aaron Palushaj. The Miami defense keyed in on the duo, limiting them to just one total assist.
“We got goals from some unlikely sources,” Berenson said after Sunday afternoon’s victory. “It’s not always your top scorers who are going to score in games like this. We didn’t get a lot of shots in the game. We just had to whack and hack and make our chances count.”
Freshman walk-on forward Luke Glendening tallied his first career goal Sunday on a tic-tac-toe play. Three defensemen lit the lamp in the series. Michigan scored shorthanded. Even strength. On the power play. Even off a Miami defenseman’s skate.
It was just that kind of weekend.
“We buried our chances when we had the opportunity,” junior captain Chris Summers said. “We just got a little bit of puck luck.”
The Wolverines jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first five minutes of Saturday’s game to set the tone for the entire series. Michigan never trailed this weekend, and the Yost crowd made sure the RedHawks knew it. Fans shook the building with each goal of the early scoring onslaught.
“It’s everything,” Berenson said of the early lead. “It gets the crowd in the game, number one. That’s huge. That’s home ice. It gives your team that confidence that it needs so much at home.”
Again on Sunday, the Wolverines took the lead in the contest’s first five minutes and never looked back.
There were times in both games when Michigan was outplayed. Berenson and players alike were quick to criticize their play in both blowout victories. Berenson called Saturday’s win “ugly” and listed puckhandling mistakes that need to be fixed after the sweep.
But “huge” was the most common description of the series, both by players and coaches.
Not just because of major implications in the CCHA standings. Not just because the Wolverines wanted to exact revenge on the only team that dealt them a weekend sweep.
With a series against conference top dog Notre Dame looming in three weeks, Michigan (9-5-0 CCHA, 15-7-0 overall) needed to make a statement.
And it achieved its goal thanks to a smothering defense that blocked 25 shots in Sunday’s game alone, solid goaltending from sophomore Bryan Hogan and, most of all, a balanced offensive attack.
Since the last series against Miami six weeks ago, the 10th-ranked Wolverines have won seven of eight games. They have scored 36 goals in that stretch, a long cry from their one-goal weekend in Oxford.
“Some teams are second-half teams,” Summers said. “Hopefully, we can be one of those teams.”