MARQUETTE — After a Friday night affair in which everything that could possibly happen in a game — a disqualification, a brawl, a last-second goal and a shootout win — happened, the No. 8 Michigan hockey team wanted to make a quick, clean sweep of Northern Michigan on Saturday evening.
The game was quick. And relatively clean. At times, especially with another last-minute comeback, it seemed like a flashback to the previous night.
But the win ultimately eluded the Wolverines, who fell 4-3 to the 20th-ranked Wildcats at the Berry Events Center.
“I think we were missing a little more offensive bit,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We didn’t really test their goalie as far as having really good chances.”
Michigan (1-2-1 CCHA, 3-3-1 overall) faced challenges before the puck even dropped, with the presence of senior forward Jeff Rohrkemper on the blue line.
After freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba received a suspension for the night due to a game-misconduct penalty the day before, Michigan frantically searched for a body to fill the gap on the third defensive line. Berenson praised Rohrkemper for his adaptability, but refused to acknowledge that the ever-shrinking defensive corps had anything to do with the loss.
In fact, the coach believed the team’s sputtering had everything to do with its limited numbers of forwards who have a flair for finding the back of the net.
Look to the final period for the prime example — when the night took a turn that was eerily similar to the one before, as senior forward A.J. Treais’s power play tally kicked off a late surge of Michigan goals. In the span of a minute, the Wolverines scored twice — the one from Treais and another from junior defenseman Mac Bennett — to close the gap to 4-3.
Though the Wolverines pulled freshman goalie Steve Racine and had a good number of looks towards the end, no one else seemed to have Treais’s luck finding the net.
“You can tell when A.J. shoots the puck, he shoots to score,” Berenson said. “We’re not getting shots like that from anyone else. We got back in the game, but you’ve got to capitalize.”
Racine earned the starting nod for the second night, but his rough start seemed to spiral out of control as Northern Michigan (1-2-1, 4-3-1) tacked on goal after goal.
Any concerns about Reed Seckel, the Wildcat forward who took a major hit from Trouba the night before, were quickly put to rest when he struck first for Northern Michigan on Saturday, hammering in his own rebound for the first goal of the evening.
Racine took another hit in the waning minutes of the first frame when Scott Macaulay dangled him out right before deking and beating the goalie glove-side to put the Wildcats up 2-0 to enter the second period.
The Wolverines looked to jumpstart a little life into their team at the beginning of the second stanza, but Northern Michigan put a stopper in their plans with a quick tap-in goal from the crease.
The Wildcats’ momentum only last a short while — not two minutes later, junior forward Kevin Lynch crossed the slot and neatly buried the puck in the open corner of the net to finally put Michigan on the board.
Lynch’s goal seemed to finally tilt the ice in the Wolverines’ favor as shots rained down on Northern Michigan goalie Jared Coreau. But Seckel found twine a second time — on another rebound, no less.
Whereas Berenson cited the forwards for being unable to stage a late rally, Bennett faulted the blue line.
“Our D-zone coverage, we kind of got caught up,” Bennett said. “They got pucks in and took advantage of the chances. Unfortunately for us, to come back in the third, it was too little, too late.”