Early Slumber Costs Michigan in Final
by Zach Helfand/CHN Reporter
DETROIT On Friday, Western Michigan slept as Michigan battled with Bowling Green late into the night. On Saturday, it showed.
Less than 24 hours later, the Broncos drank out of the Mason Cup as they sent the Wolverines home empty handed. Again.
Western Michigan sped past a sluggish Michigan early to open up a commanding three-goal lead. Michigan woke up in the third period, but couldn’t find a tying goal as they fell 3-2 to the Broncos. Last year, Western Michigan sent the Wolverines packing in the semifinals of the CCHA Tournament.
“Let’s face it, we’re not that good,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We’re not any better than anybody else, but I don’t think we’re any worse than anyone else.”
Berenson knew that his team would be tired heading into Saturday’s affair. The Wolverines won in double overtime on Friday over Bowling Green, but they paid the price.
Michigan senior captain Luke Glendeing said that he liked the energy Michigan showed in the opening minutes, despite the fatigue. But for much of the game, the Wolverines were a step behind the speedy Western Michigan team.
“I actually thought we came out all right, all things considered,” said senior captain Luke Glendening. “Being in a championship game, I think we were up and we were ready to go. We just didn’t have quite enough gas in the tank to finish it off.”
Western Michigan coach Andy Murray emphasized jumping out to a fast start, and the Broncos responded by dominating Michigan early in the game.
Western Michigan used three rebound goals to take a three-goal lead heading into the third period. Though fifth-year senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick has carried Michgian for much of the season, he has struggled with controlling rebounds. On Saturday, Western Michigan capitalized. Ian Slater, Dane Walters and Chase Balisy all converted for the Broncos, and all three scored on rebound opportunities.
“(Hunwick) has a way of placing his rebounds, where he places them where he wants to, and I don’t know if he did that tonight. They got shots through, and he battled hard. Let’s face it, one of the reasons we’re here is Shawn Hunwick.”
Since losing the National Championship game in overtime, Michigan is 6-0 this season in games decided in overtime, including two double-overtime victories in the CCHA playoffs. Michigan players like to credit a punishing offseason conditioning program, including countless runs up the steps of Michigan stadium, for the fitness to succeed in overtime.
Though the Wolverines showed signs of fatigue for most of the game, that fitness finally came through late in the third period. Michigan gained momentum after killing off several penalties, including one five-minute penalty. Sophomore forward Kevin Clare added a shorthanded tally after splitting two defenseman to cut the deficit to two goals.
Minutes later, Michigan went on its own five-minute power play after Slater was ejected for a hit on sophomore defenseman Mac Bennett. Michigan converted, scoring a power-play goal on a great feed from sophomore forward Luke Moffatt to junior defenseman Lee Moffie.
In the end, though, the Wolverines’ late life wasn’t enough to overcome their slow start.
“I like the way we got back in the game in the third period, “Berenson said. “We needed one shot. We had that shot, but it didn’t hit the net.”