The No. 9 Michigan hockey team was hoping that it would be able to use its building momentum from the past few weeks to upset No. 1 Minnesota and beat Wisconsin this weekend to sweep the College Hockey Showcase.
But things went just as expected, as the Wolverines lost to the Golden Gophers 5-2 before defeating the Badgers 5-3 one night later to salvage the split.
“I thought that we competed a lot harder tonight, we played stronger on the puck and in one-on-one battles,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We knew Wisconsin would be an older and stronger team. It was a good challenge for our team to hang in there.”
With a little more than a minute to play and Wisconsin trailing 4-3, the Badgers pulled goalie Bernd Bruckler for an extra attacker. But with 40 seconds remaining, Wisconsin sophomore Rene Bourque committed a tripping penalty to take away the team”s man-advantage. Michigan”s Dwight Helminen scored an empty-netter 32 seconds later to put the Wolverines up 5-3.
Coming in with a 14 percent powerplay percentage, it is clear that the Wolverines were having trouble capitalizing on their powerplay chances. But Saturday night was the opposite, as Michigan went 3-7 on the man-advantage and had a shorthanded goal.
“The powerplay has been an issue all year,” Berenson said. “Win or lose, it”s always a factor. It”s important that our powerplay and penalty kill combined give us a chance every game.”
Wisconsin had killed off 31 consecutive powerplay opportunities entering the game, but its streak was snapped 6:23 to the first when Mike Cammalleri scored from the point off a feed from junior John Shouneyia.
The Badgers came back later in the first with two goals, scored just 30 seconds apart. The first came on the powerplay by Bourque off a cross-crease pass from captain Andy Wheeler, and the second came off a backhand shot by senior Matt Murray right in front of the net.
Early in the second, Shouneyia scored on a 5-on-3 powerplay to tie the game at two. He also added an assist to finish the weekend with four points.
“Shouneyia needs to participate offensively and give our team some depth, and I thought he added some tonight in that area,” Berenson said.
“(The powerplay goals) tonight were huge for us because we”ve been struggling a little bit,” Shouneyia said. “I think we”re establishing a shot, moving the puck around well. We have them guessing, and we”re creating traffic in front.”
Michigan capitalized on a crucial mistake by Bruckler to take a 3-2 lead late in the second period. Bruckler, a freshman playing in just his third game of the year, retreated behind the Wisconsin net to play the puck. He sent it around the boards, but it went right to Komisarek, who shot and scored before Bruckler could get back in position.
Komisarek”s second goal of the evening came shorthanded with just over five minutes elapsed in the third. Senior Craig Murray won the faceoff in the Badgers” zone and dropped it back to Komisarek for the slapshot. The goal put Michigan up 4-2.
“Out on the point, its all about getting the shots through,” Komisarek said.
The Michigan defense scored four goals on the weekend, two more than its total from first 11 games of the season. Komisarek has five of the defense”s six goals.
“A big part of college hockey now is that the points are open a lot, and if you get the puck back to them, they need to get it through,” Berenson said. “We”re not asking our defense to take shots, but we are asking them to help create offense and get the pucks through. If Komisarek gets his shot through, he”ll create some offense.”
With the win, Michigan avoided its first Showcase sweep in history.
“We were disappointed with our effort last night,” Komisarek said. “We were caught off guard, and we wanted to come out tonight and bring the play to them. I think we”re happy that we battled hard all game, it was a good win for us.