Friday, October 21
Michigan 3 – @Northern Michigan 5
4-1-0 (0-1-0 CCHA)
Saturday, October 22
Michigan 3 (SO 1) – @ Northern Michigan 3 (SO 0)
4-1-1 (0-1-0-1 CCHA)
Michigan Hockey had a rough first weekend on the road. Unfortunately, neither game was televised, so radio was the best I was able to follow. Northern nearly doubled up the Wolverines in shots the first period, but Hunwick played strong in net and kept things scoreless through the first half of the game. Then things fell apart. Just over the ten minute mark in the second period, a Northern player ran Hunwick over, inciting a series of fights between the two teams. Huckwick was ejected for contact to the head, as well as Moffatt and the initiating Northern player for fighting. Hunwick’s replacement, Janacyk, let in the first Northern goal on a power play five minutes after coming in. Michigan actually answered with a Sparks goal 30 seconds later, but Janecyk gave the lead up again only 11 seconds after Sparks tied it up. Northern went into the second intermission up 2-1, and increased the lead with a goal a minute into the third. Hyman, long overdue, scored his first career goal to cut the deficit to one with seven minutes left, and Travis Lynch evened things up with a goal a few minutes later. Unfortunately, the tie lasted just over a minute, as Janecyk let in another goal with two and a half to play. An empty net goal sealed the game, giving the Wolverines their first regular season loss and a bad start to the CCHA season. Michigan was outshot on the game 32-27, and also lost the faceoff battle 31-29.
Although I’m sure the team hoped for a better response on Saturday, what they got was not what they were looking for. Michigan took the early lead on a Treais goal seven minutes in, and a Sparks power play goal a few minutes later pushed it to two. Overall it was a dominating first period (something of a change) for the Wolverines, as they outshot the Wildcats 12-4 and took the 2-0 lead into the first intermission. That lead lasted until halfway through the second, when Northern scored two power play goals five minutes apart to tie things up. The Wolverines seemed to be outplayed in the second just like Northern was in the first, getting outshot 12-5, but a Kevin Lynch goal with a minute left in the period salvaged things somewhat, and Michigan took a 3-2 lead into the second intermission. Unfortunately that lead was short lived, as Northern tied it up on an even strength goal less than a minute into the third. That ended the scoring for the game, although Michigan wasn’t without its chances to pull out the win. A Wildcat player was ejected and given a five minute major for contact to the head with 40 seconds left in the third. This gave Michigan the man advantage for the last 40 seconds of regulation, AND all but 40 seconds of the overtime period. Michigan had five minute of straight power play to end the game, needing only a goal to seal it; in other words a golden opportunity. As has been a theme all season, the Wolverine power play only managed four shots over the five minutes and was unable to come through. Michigan did win the shootout, as Treais scored and Hunwick stoned the three wildcat shooters. It’s the first shootout win I remember in a while (to go with a number of shootout losses), so that’s a plus. Still, with the opportunities given, especially at the end of the game, to only come away with an overtime victory (to the CCHA; a tie to the NCAA) really hurts. Michigan just outshot Northern, 28-26, and won the faceoff battle 40-29.
Some thoughts on the weekend: first, we can has goalie recruit? Despite getting generally outplayed in the first period of Friday’s game, Hunwick kept the puck out of the net. It was still scoreless when he was ejected halfway through the game. In a tale of two halves, Janecyk gave up four in his 30 minutes of work. What makes it even tougher is that even though Janecyk gave up the 3-1 lead, Michigan clawed back to tie things before another Wildcat goal put things out of reach. And from what I’ve heard, all the goals allowed were pretty soft. The difference between Hunwick and Janecyk is night and day, and with Hunwick in his final year of eligibility, we need to find a replacement option pronto.
Second, as has been a recurring theme, the Michigan power play again let them down. The five minute major at the end of regulation Saturday was a golden opportunity. Especially in overtime, where a goal would have ended it right then and there. With an opportunity like that, and the game on the line, the team needs to come through. At least get shots on net, allow for something to possibly happen. Averaging less than a shot a minute over that man advantage can’t get it done. Further complicating matters was the Wolverine penalty kill, which gave up two goals on only three opportunities. If the special teams play doesn’t improve, this probably won’t be the last game it costs the team.
Finally, a bit of good news after an incredibly disappointing weekend: it sounds like, despite rumors to the contrary, Merrill will indeed stick out his suspension and return to the team after it finishes. 4-1-1 isn’t horrible for the first half of the 12 game suspension, although the competition hasn’t been great thus far. Regardless, his presence has been sorely missed, and will be a great boost when he returns.