It wasn't the model of perfection for a hockey weekend, but this weekend the Wolverines swept the NMU Wildcats at Yost. The wins jumped them past Western Michigan into second place in the CCHA.
On Friday, the Wolverines were perfect on special teams (2-for-2 on the power play and 6-for-6 while short-handed) en route to a 4-1 win in a game that was closer than the score.
Michigan jumped out to a 2-goal lead in the first period thanks to goals from two freshmen. Phil Di Giuseppe scored a goal for the first time since December 2nd, and Alex Guptill notched his team-leading 15th of the year. Treais skipped a pass off a defenseman's foot and it ended up on PDG's stick right in front of the net. He popped one upstairs to give Michigan a 1-0 lead one second shy of the halfway point in the first period.
With Reed Seckel in the box for "elbowing", which could have easily been five the way they've called contact to the head this year, Pateryn let a shot go from the point and Guptill got a gorgeous tip on it to put Michigan up by a pair. That was a great-looking power play. Michigan had three good scoring chances, four shots on goal, and one found the back of the net.
Most of the rest of the game was me seething about the officiating. Michigan didn't play well in the second period, but that was at least partially influenced by them killing so many penalties. This is the part of the article where I point out that I was really happy we won that game going away so this doesn't sound like sour grapes. Red was diplomatic after the game, but admitted he hadn't seen the penalties. I suspect he had a different opinion when he saw the tape. It was bad enough at times that I had to dig this guy back up:
In the first period, DeBlois was sent off for cross-checking on another one of those "the forward pushed him and so he fell into the goalie a lot harder than he should have" plays that Miami worked to perfection. Then in the second, Sparks was pushed into Coreau. He was sent off for goalie interference. Of course he was. Midway through the third, Luke Glendening was pushed into the net. He was called for high-sticking the goalie. Mac Bennett was called early in the second for "cross-checking" on a perfectly clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit that prevent a scoring chance as a guy drove the net. It was amazing to see some of the decisions that Hall and Miller made. That said, I'd take both of them over Sergott.
To their credit, they called a pretty good game Saturday. It just amazes me how officials consistently get calls around the goalie wrong. I can see the DeBlois one going against him. The ones against Sparks and Glendening were absurd, and the Bennett call was worse than either of them. It didn't matter, though, because the penalty killing was fantastic. Northern had four shots on goal combined on their six power plays.
NMU did make it 2-1 on Ryan Daughterty's first career goal, and it was a beauty. Hunwick made the initial save and the rebound came to Daughterty. He basically shot it from between his legs. That made it 2-1 with about 8 1/2 left in the second. Sparks was called for goalie interference immediately afterwards, which was special. Michigan killed that one off pretty easily.
In the third, Glendening was called after a great-looking give and go with PDG. Coreau absolutely robbed Glendening. NMU didn't come anywhere close to the net on that power play.
DeBlois gave Michigan an insurance goal off a great feed from Merrill. That was a nothing play at center ice, but Merrill got into position to spring DeBlois on a partial breakaway. DeBlois went five-hole.
Tyler Gron was sent off on a "make it look good" penalty (we didn't get a replay...it could have been legit) and the Wolverines implemented what we'll call a power-kill, since running two minutes off the clock was just as important as scoring. But they did the latter as well! Merrill over to Moffie for a one-timer and Michigan iced it with a minute and a half left.
Shawn Hunwick made 26 stops in the game, but the penalty killers were the story of the game. They were absolutely phenomenal. They only gave up multiple shots on goal on one of NMU's six power plays. The Sparks and Glendening penalties were complete garbage calls and it was a one-goal game. In those four minutes, Michigan outshot NMU 1-0. Two huge chances for the Wildcats to tie things up and Michigan didn't give up a shot. That's championship-caliber penalty killing right there.
Saturday's game was alarming because Michigan got back to their struggles in getting the puck out of the zone. Chiasson had a brutal turnover early in the game, but Hunwick was able to stop Daughterty. Both goalies made some good saves in the first period. Hunwick had a beauty with the right pad and then Ellingson stoned Guptill.
The Wolverines took a 1-0 on a goal by Luke Glendening. Moffie brought the puck into the zone then made a beautiful pass back to Glendening out by the point. The NMU defenseman tried to block the shot and ended up deflecting it past Ellingson into the net.
DeBlois nearly made it 2-0 moments later. He walked out from behind the net and Ellingson made a fantastic save on the first shot. The rebound went off the goal post.
The Wildcats tied it up off a Michigan turnover. The puck was centered for Florek and he doesn't miss too many chances like that.
Gron snapped a Wolverine player's stick in half almost immediately after the goal and Michigan would capitalize on the power play. Jon Merrill got a shot through a Luke Moffatt screen for his first goal of the year.
Michigan had a chance to pull further ahead but Brown missed an empty net and then Andrew Cherniwchan went end-to-end, walking Merrill, and roofing one over Hunwick. Great goal, 2-2.
In overtime, the Wildcats turned it over, Glendening sent it cross-ice to Treais, and Treais sniped yet another one for the game-winner. It seems like all he's done lately is fire lasers from the top of the circle past goaltenders. His 15th of the year gave the Wolverines another dramatic Senior Night win and kept them in contention in the CCHA.
Greg Pateryn was absolutely fantastic in the game. He leveled no less than four Wildcats with clean checks (and to the officials' credit, they didn't call penalties on any of them!) and late in the game beautifully broke up a 3-on-1. He didn't get a star in the game, but he very easily could have.
The officiating was much better on Saturday. The only play that really got me up in arms was when
Guptill was racing Ellingson for the puck. Guptill got there, Ellingson
dove into his knee, sent him awkwardly into the goal, and there was no
call. It's ridiculous because he didn't get the puck (and in college I
don't think it matters), and he took out a player's knee. They called
Hasek for flipping Gaborik back in the day, and Hasek did get the puck first (and in the pros that matters). But they let the teams play Saturday. NMU had one power play, Michigan had two. Again, the Michigan penalty killers came up big. Moffie was called for boarding in the middle of the third period and the Wolverines didn't give up a shot.
Hunwick had 26 stops for the second straight night.
Michigan is still six points behind Ferris State with two games to
play. A Michigan sweep of Bowling Green and a WMU sweep of Ferris would
give the Wolverines a tie for the CCHA crown. They would win the
tie-breaker and take the #1 seed into the CCHA Tournament.
It's not as unrealistic as it sounds. Michigan should
sweep the Falcons, who have won just four conference games and have
only scored 3+ goals on three occasions since Thanksgiving. You'd like
to think that happens. The WMU sweeping Ferris piece is a little
tougher, but the Broncos did sweep the Bulldogs in a home-and-home
earlier in the year, so it's certainly not out of the realm of