KALAMAZOO ― The No. 8 Michigan hockey team has perfected the recipe for a weekend split. A disheartening loss on Friday, followed by a vengeful victory the next night.
This weekend was no different.
On Friday, the Wolverines (8-4-0 overall, 5-3-0-0 CCHA) were upset 2-1 by Western Michigan (2-7-3 overall, 1-4-3-1 CCHA), a team that had just one previous win. Michigan took a 1-0 lead in the second period with a Carl Hagelin rebound goal that slipped between the legs of Bronco goalie Riley Gill.
But the Broncos clawed their way back in hostile Yost Ice Arena. Seconds after senior goaltender Billy Sauer made some of his best sprawling saves of the season, a slap shot by Tyler Ludwig from the point baffled the senior top shelf to tie the game.
Western Michigan then took an unexpected and crowd-silencing lead off another point shot. Defenseman Kevin Connauton snuck the seemingly harmless shot past Sauer’s blocker side.
As Friday’s final buzzer sounded, the Broncos hugged and jumped on top of an elated Gill, whose 33 saves sealed the win. The Wolverines stood near the bench wondering what went wrong and how to fix it.
“I felt we played a very good game, but obviously we had a few let-ups here and there in the defensive zone and those obviously cost us for the end result,” junior acting captain Chris Summers said.
All it took was a little attitude ― and anger.
On Saturday, Michigan took the ice at Lawson Ice Arena on a mission. Fourteen seconds after the opening faceoff, the Wolverines set the tone with a goal from David Wohlberg. The freshman received a pass that bounced off his skate and slid to the crease before shooting it into the open glove side of the net beyond Gill.
It was a lucky goal, but it was just what Michigan needed: a little puck luck and game-changing momentum.
“To get the crowd of out it early ― that was huge,” sophomore goalie Bryan Hogan said. “Every time you’re on the road with a big crowd, you’ve got to get that first goal and get the crowd out of it.”
And as it turned out, Michigan didn’t need another goal. Hogan stopped 20 shots for to his first career shutout and the first for the Wolverines this season.
With the tempo set, Michigan continued firing on all cylinders. Senior forward Tim Miller scored a beautiful goal, and sophomore forward Louie Caporusso notched his first career hat trick as a Wolverine on three consecutive third-period goals.
“We’ve been kind of unlucky the past couple games,” Caporusso said after the game. “We felt nothing’s going to stand in our way today. We don’t care. We’re not going to make the smallest mistake or let up for the smallest little time. We’ve got to stay with them for all 60 minutes.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson echoed that sentiment, saying his team played harder and grittier in the series finale.
But Michigan’s upset loss Friday will be the one remembered by fans despite the team’s strong rebound Saturday.
“We had a great crowd (Friday), that watched us lose,” Berenson said. “They had a great crowd (Saturday), that watched them lose. So, all the fans are disappointed, and both teams had one good game this weekend.”