It's hard to say if it was what Michigan was doing or if MSU is just truly that bad of a hockey team, but I think we're onto something with these new lines.
The new top line of Wohlberg, Caporusso, and Turnbull combined for 3 goals and 5 assists (including a couple of really pretty shots, one by Wohlberg, and one by Caporusso).
Matt Rust, paired up once against with Aaron Palushaj, tipped in a shot five minutes into the game. And the fourth line of Ciraulo, Fardig, and Glendening was fantastic once again.
The game clearly turned when the score was 2-1 Michigan and the Spartans took a shot that trickled through the legs of Bryan Hogan and nestled up right against the goalpost, halfway over the line. Gazely dove and tried to knock it in but missed and the Wolverines were able to clear. They came down the ice, Hagelin scored unassisted, and the game was never again in doubt.
I know I sound like a broken--or should it be borken--record, but I am so happy that I get to watch Carl Hagelin play hockey. That kid has to be the perfect definition of a coach's dream. He works his ass off, you can put him out there in any situation, and he just never stops skating. When Michigan is on the PK and someone steals the puck from the opponent, I don't even need to see the number any more to know that it's Hagelin. He's phenomenal.
Actually I thought all of our penalty killers were really good tonight. Rust had a great game tag-teaming with Hagelin on the forecheck. Tim Miller was fantastic in his role once again, though I wish he had shot it when he tried to feed someone (Digger or Wohlberg) back door on one golden opportunity. Wohlberg and Fardig were solid once again.
And Chris Summers. Wow. One of the things I've been remiss about is that I don't praise our defensemen nearly as much as I should. I made more of an effort to keep an eye on the back-end tonight and Summers is just a beast. He and Burlon are as solid of a duo as we've had lately.
The fourth line was really, really good tonight. I don't know if Red was trying to send a message to Naurato and Winnett by dressing the guys he dressed or if he was rewarding the play of Fardig, Glendening, and Ciraulo, but either way, I like having those guys in the lineup. They made things happen out there and aside from Glendening's (iffy) penalty when it was already 4-1, they didn't hurt us a bit out there. Fardig did well on the PK, and he potted a goal for himself too.
But after a fairly quiet start to the game, it was really the top line that stole the show. Caporusso scored his 19th and 20th of the season, the second of which was a beautiful hesitation move to get Lerg to go down before roofing it (off a great pass from Wohlberg). And David Wohlberg had a nice little backhander up under the bar of his own. The third member of that line, Turnbull...he only had a playmaker, with a trio of assists. Not a bad night.
I think that's all I really wanted to mention. It's also nice that every single player who took a draw tonight was above .500. Michigan was dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 39 of 60 draws. They didn't quite hit the 40-50 shots I projected, but they got to 36 after outshooting the Spartans 17-5 in the third period.
In net Hogan played a pretty solid game. He made a few really big pad saves when they were needed and there wasn't really a whole helluva lot he could do on either MSU goal. He left a few too many rebounds tonight, but he was able to corral most of them, so it didn't end up being a big deal.
The only real downer of the night was that the power play was terrible again. 0 for 3 with just two shots on net. I suppose it's good that we keep winning games (for the most part) even though they just can't get it clicking with the man advantage.
I hope these lines keep clicking, because I really do like them. I love having Palushaj with Rust, Caporusso and Wohlberg clearly have some chemistry (and Turnbull is playing really well), and the fourth line is just awesome. The third line wasn't great tonight, but they had a couple of shifts where they were really swarming (I did think Miller had a very good game though).
All in all, a really satisfying victory after a slow first period.
To make things even better, NMU took care of Alaska, which moves us just three points behind them with four games in hand. On the sucky side, both the Miami/Omaha game (two teams ahead of us) and the OSU/WMU game went to a shootout and became three-point games. We pick up another point on Miami, since they lost, but OSU kept their unbeaten streak going.
So we stay 6th place in the CCHA:
-10 points behind Notre Dame with a game in hand
-4 points behind Miami with 2 games in hand
-3 points behind Alaska with 4 games in hand
-2 points behind OSU
-2 points behind UNO with 2 games in hand
The shootout points really are killing us. Miami is the only team in the bunch that doesn't have 3 shootout bonus points on the season (they've just got one). Without those, we're ahead of OSU and UNO, tied with Alaska (with a ton of games in hand) and in position to pass Miami. Not to mention that if we were to win tomorrow night in our game in hand, as well as sweep the Irish next weekend, we could pull within a single point of the CCHA lead. With the shootout points, it's a lot steeper of a hill to climb, though I still think we're in very good shape for second place in the conference.
And we've gotten some separation on the rest of the pack. We're 5 points up on Ferris in 7th place with a game in hand, and no one else is closer than 9 points behind us.
Tomorrow's a big one. We've lost to a lot of bad hockey teams this season, and it would be nice to complete the regular season sweep of MSU, in what could very well be the last time we face Mini-Me. The game is important not only because it's two more points at stake in a very tight CCHA race, but it could also let us build up some momentum heading into next week's huge home-and-home with Notre Dame.