You’ve heard it all before. They just need to get to the playoffs, and then anything can happen.
But this weekend, the anything was the expected.
Nearly everything went as planned for the No. 5 Michigan hockey team in its CCHA quarterfinal series. The Wolverines swept Bowling Green by rattling off a 5-1 win on Friday and a 4-1 win on Saturday like they were checking items off their shopping list.
The next item on the list: the Mason Cup, awarded to the winner of the CCHA Tournament.
“We’re a confident team,” sophomore defenseman Lee Moffie said. “We came into this weekend wanting two wins, and anything short of that would have been disappointing. We came here and got the two wins. We were confident in that happening, and we made it happen.”
The Falcons are living proof of the unpredictable nature of the playoffs; they were the last seed in the conference tournament, winning just three games in the CCHA all year. They then beat No. 6 seed Northern Michigan in the first round.
Friday’s game started with Bowling Green believing they could do it again. Early in the game, the Wolverines blocked a shot, and the rebound bounced to a Falcon in the slot. With senior goalie Shawn Hunwick on the other side of the net, freshman forward Luke Moffatt tied up the stick and left the game scoreless.
“They’re playing a smart game, and they’re looking to create turnovers and they did get one,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said after Friday’s game. “They got a good chance on it. They can score goals. … They scored enough goals last weekend.”
That would be the best chance the Falcons would have for the first two periods. Michigan woke up, scoring two goals in the first and added another in the second — senior forward Scooter Vaughan’s toe-drag-to-top-shelf highlight reel goal — to put the Wolverines up three and the game out of reach. Bowling Green had scored three goals just one time in their last 17 games.
It was more of the same Saturday, with Michigan (20-7-1-0 CCHA, 25-9-4 overall) using the first two periods to reach the magical three-goal mark in the second period. This time it was Moffie’s seeing-eye wrist shot from the left point that squeaked through Falcon goalie Andrew Hammond late in the second period that put the game away.
“It was just a decent release, and I don’t think he was ready for it,” Moffie said. “He probably should have made the save, but luckily it went in.”
Perhaps the only thing Michigan didn’t check off the to-do list was stay healthy. Late in the third period of Friday’s game, junior forward David Wohlberg was sandwiched by two Falcon players — according to Berenson, Wohlberg broke his collarbone on the play, and he will miss the rest of the season.
Senior forward Ben Winnett filled in for Wohlberg on the top line. The offense didn’t slow down. A day after outshooting Bowling Green 41-24, the Wolverines had 15 more shots than the Falcons in game two.
The plus-32 shot differential on the weekend is the biggest difference Michigan has recorded all season.
“It’s a tough series when you’re playing against a last-place team,” Berenson said. “Sometimes you might think you can take liberties, or you can take shortcuts. Well, there’s no way.”
Friday will be Michigan’s next opportunity to round out their shopping list, as it will face No. 4 seed Western Michigan in the semifinals, and the finals will be on Saturday. As the top seed, the Wolverines are the obvious favorite.
But you know what they say.