Exhausted Michigan Advances Over Bowling Green
by Zach Helfand/CHN Reporter
DETROIT For four periods, David was beating Goliath, the slipper was still snug on Bowling Green’s foot and the clock hadn’t yet hit midnight. For four periods, Bowling Green outplayed the Michigan juggernaut.
But with the score tied after regulation and an overtime frame, Bowling Green ended up doing what it did for most of the season — namely, lose. And Michigan did what it normally does — win, this time on a Luke Moffatt game-winner — and the college hockey world stayed upright on its axis.
For Michigan, though, the 3-2 double-overtime win was less than pretty. And despite the victory, the Wolverines got away from the style of hockey that has carried them for the past three months.
“[We started] a little lackadaisical,” Wohlberg said. “As the game went on, it got more intense and our team showed our character, and we really came through.”
Michigan will pay for the four-plus periods of hockey when it plays Western Michigan for the CCHA title on Saturday.
“Our guys left it all on the ice, no question,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “I can tell you, we’re going to be a tired team tomorrow.”
The Wolverines needed a feverish third period, a through the legs pass from sophomore forward Derek Deblois and a finish from senior forward David Wohlberg just to tie the game. Then Michigan needed a Bowling Green shot off the post in overtime and a Moffatt goal during a scrum near the crease to win it.
But Michigan hardly played well enough defensively to win the game.
The Wolverines committed costly turnovers — one by Merrill led to a Bowling Green breakaway — and penalties early in the game, when Bowling Green’s first goal came on the power play. They struggled to clear the puck out of their zone and didn’t forecheck with any energy.
“I thought we were slow,” Berenson said. “I thought we were deliberate with the puck, and we were tentative. And give Bowling Green credit. But still, it wasn’t our pace that we wanted to play at, and I thought we got better as the game went on. Don’t ask me why.”
In the week leading up to the game, Michigan players pledged they wouldn’t sleep on the Falcons, saying they had learned their lesson from a loss three weeks ago.
“I think in (that) game when we lost to them, that really opened our eyes to how good of a team they were,” senior forward David Wohlberg said this week. “Now we know what we have to do to go and win against them this time.”
Yet they barely woke up in time. Michigan played a large portion of the game on its heels. Though the Wolverines outshot Bowling Green, the Falcons controlled the first two periods of play. The Falcons capitalized on lethargic Michigan defense to jump out to an early 2-0 lead.
The second goal came when junior forward Marc Rodriguez split two weak Michigan checks and beat fifth-year senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick with a wrister.
And Michigan’s first goal of the game in the final minute of the second period was not exactly convincing. Jon Merrill sent a slow, bouncing puck toward goal, and junior goaltender Andrew Hammond misjudged what should have been a routine save.
Michigan threatened for much of the third period, but couldn’t convert for more than 17 minutes. With three minutes remaining, DeBlois stole the puck behind the Bowling Green net and sent a through the legs pass to Wohlberg, who converted to tie the game.
In the overtime period, junior forwards Chris Brown and Kevin Lynch each hit posts just moments apart before Moffatt finally won the game.
And despite the ugliness, Michigan got the ‘W.’ In the postseason, that’s all the matters.
“We kept on grinding,” Moffatt said. “We knew we had to play a whole 60 minutes, and we ended up playing more than that.”