It wasn't the dominating effort that the Wolverines had Friday night, but they grinded one out last night and got the much-needed sweep of the Lakers.
Bryan Hogan was pretty great in net, making 26 saves on the night. He was rock solid between the pipes and made a few huge stops.
His first big save was in the first five minutes. Langlais turned it over and a Michigan clearing attempt hit a Laker skate and bounced to Schwab right in the slot. Hogan was quick with the right pad from point-blank range to keep the game scoreless.
Pateryn was called for cross-checking on the play and Hogan made a stop on Sim once Sim stepped through our defense.
The Wolverines got it going after the penalty was killed off. Miller made a nice pass to Czarnik, but the Laker defenseman was quick with the stick to knock it away. Palushaj then found Rust in the slot and Rust just missed the top corner.
Caporusso, Lebler, Palushaj and Langlais all had good chances on Michigan's next power play effort.
Then late in the period Gysbers snapped one on net that hit a couple people on the way through. Hogan had a little trouble with it and pushed it out to the right. No Michigan defender was on that side of the net and MacVoy had a wide-open net. He buried it and gave the Lakers their second 1-0 lead on the weekend.
But just like the night before, the Lakers had a costly letdown right before intermission. Just 18 seconds later, Hagelin took the puck in the corner to the right of Inglis, carried it out to the blueline then wheeled into the middle of the ice. He cut right down the middle and sent a laser low on the blocker-side to tie the game back up. That was almost a carbon copy of one of my favorite Steve Yzerman goals.
Great news during the first intermission. Chris Summers is interviewed and says that every player he's talked to who has come through the program has told him to stay in school and enjoy it for as long as he can. He then says, "I want to stay. I want to finish. I've been here three years already, so what's another year? It's another chance for me to grow as a player and grow as a person. And I'll get my degree." Sounds like our on-ice captain will be back in 09-10.
Gysbers took a penalty early in the second and Michigan didn't get much going. Red had talked about making good decisions on the power play and they didn't on that opportunity. Langlais and Caporusso both passed up great chances while looking for the perfect pass.
Winnett had a great look and Inglis stoned him with the pad. Then Summers had a follow-up opportunity and Inglis got that one as well.
The Wolverines jumped ahead when Czarnik fed Palushaj with a pass. Palushaj ripped one off the pad of Inglis and the rebound went right onto Lebler's stick. Lebler didn't miss and the Wolverines had themselves a 2-1 lead. You would think that I wouldn't forget to mention such a crucial play in my original edition of this story. But you'd be wrong.
Llewellyn had a nice break-up on a pass through the slot that would've been an easy tap-in. Then the Lakers started hitting some beautiful passes where the recipient couldn't get a stick on it. Perkovich found Barczuk twice on one shift and Barczuk let it slide off his stick both times or he would've had two blockbuster scoring chances. Then someone hit Sim behind the defense and he couldn't handle it.
Hogan then left a soft rebound but completely redeemed himself by somehow getting across the net to make a huge stop on Nehring. Miller hooked Nehring as well, but Hogan still had to be sharp. He was shaken up for a minute but stayed in the game.
LSSU didn't do anything on the power play and then Burlon made a great pass to Czarnik, but Inglis got across with his pad and then stopped the Czarnik shot on the rebound.
Michigan got a couple of power play to start the third and Wohlberg thought he was in all alone but was whistled on the offside. He didn't like it, but a frame-by-frame replay showed he was off by a step. Great call by the linesman.
Rust was left open in the slot on a turnover and the Wolverines got him the puck. It was hard to tell if Inglis got that one or if Rust shot wide, but either way it was a great opportunity.
The Lakers came out two-on-one and Burlon did a great job of taking the pass away. Schwab had to shoot and Hogan was able to get out to the top of his crease and smother it.
Palushaj hit the post off a great drop-pass from Rust and then tipped a shot from the point right on, Inglis made a great save.
The last 7 minutes of the hockey game was all special teams. The Lakers got the first crack at a power play and Schwab just walked Summers, but Hogan was strong again. MacVoy then had a golden opportunity to get his second of the night. On the replay I couldn't tell if it hit the post or if Hogan got it, but I think our keeper made the save.
Two hits from behind on the Lakers gave Michigan 4 minutes of power play time over the last 4 1/2 minutes and that was pretty much all she wrote. Caporusso tried to snipe one and just missed. For the second PP, Michigan pretty much went with the prevent and threw out our best defensive forwards—Miller, Hagelin, and Rust—to prevent any short-handed chances (or maybe the other units were just tired).
The Lakers pulled the goalie and Michigan missed on about six cracks at the empty net. LSSU never came close to getting the game tied with the goalie out and Michigan came out with a 2-1 win.
Hogan was fantastic. He made several stops on guys who walked in all alone and his stop on Schwab early in the game was flat out robbery. The defense was pretty good, though they let LSSU walk in untouched a little too often for my liking, but Hogan bailed them out when he needed to.
Hagelin was great yet again—by the way, I absolutely love the Swedish flags in the student section…that's kind of awesome. As was the case Friday night, a Michigan goal late in the period prevented LSSU from carrying momentum into the intermissionn. And that was a highlight-reel goal for sure.
I also thought Winnett had a very good weekend. He wasn't the best player out there or anything like that, but he drew several penalties, and showed a lot more offensively than he has at any point in his Michigan career.
The line of Hagelin, Rust, and Palushaj was really fantastic. They had a ton of chances—how Rust didn't pot one I don't know—and provided the typically awesome defensive play that line is known for.
We made up our games in hand on Miami this weekend and we're now just two points behind them in the standings. We're 2 ahead of Alaska (still with two games in hand) and two ahead of OSU after they knocked off the Irish this afternoon. (By the way, how big are those blown calls by Brian Aaron now? We'd be two points back with six games to play, and we'd have the tie-breaker on them.) We face Omaha next weekend and the best they can do is tie us in the standings, but we'd still have two games in hand. With six games left to play, we're sitting in really good shape to get a first-round bye in the CCHA Playoffs. We're also sitting in a tie for third in the Pairwise now, which would give us a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They've done a really nice job pulling themselves off the bubble and turning into a team that no one is going to want to face come late-March.
The one thing that could end up being our Achilles heel is the power play. 0 for 7 on the night with just seven shots. They had some decent looks, but you gotta put some pucks in the net. We're the #11 scoring offense in the country, but just #42 on the power play at 14.3%. Ohio State and Denver are the only other teams in the country who have had similar struggles on the power play while remaining in the top 10-15 in offense. And they're still 10+ positions higher in the national PP rankings than we are. There's no reason for a team with this much talent to be that bad on the PP. They've still got some time to figure it out before the tournament.
Jim Roque was apparently very unhappy with the officiating at the end of the game, and Art Regner indicated Roque thought the Wolverines were diving a lot. I'll agree that the hit from behind on Palushaj with 2 minutes left probably could've been let go—it wasn't blatant and it was a pretty physical series—but his team had four more power plays than we did the night before, despite getting soundly outplayed (and it would've been five more save for a penalty with a whole 35 seconds left in the game). I can't say I have a lot of sympathy for him on that one. The other calls in the third were all legit, in my opinion. Despite the McInchak presence, I actually thought it was a pretty well-officiated weekend. Definitely better than we saw against Notre Dame and FYS, that's for sure.
If you're interested in additional hockey coverage, you can read a lot more from me at The Blog That Yost Built