Michigan and Michigan State split a pair of 3-2 contests in their late-season series. The Spartans won at Munn on Friday night, while the Wolverines rebounded in overtime at the Joe on Saturday.
Friday night's game was wide-open early on. There were only 2-3 stoppages in the first nine minutes. Michigan State held a 10-8 edge in shots, but the teams went into the intermission 0-0. In the first frame, the best sequence was a 4-on-2 for Michigan State that was broken up by Hyman. That led to a 3-on-2 the other way for the Wolverines and Sparks had a good chance that was denied by Yanakeff.
Early in the second, Mike Chiasson had to hook Merrifield after he split the defense. The Spartans kept the puck in the Michigan end for a good 1:50 of that power play, but outside of a chance by Krug, the PKers kept the Spartans at bay.
Just after the Spartan power play ended, DiGiuseppe and Treais came in 2-on-1. PDG got it over to Treais and he buried it to give Michigan a 1-0 lead.
Michigan nearly made it 2-0 moments after another Spartan power play. Sinelli was sprung on a breakaway and got denied by Yanakeff.
Kevin Lynch actually did make it 2-0 midway through the period. Moffie got deep into the zone to dig a puck loose. He got it to Lynch and Lynch was able to sneak it underneath Yanakeff.
The Spartans responded in a big way just a couple of minutes later. FYS won a faceoff in the Michigan end. They tried to center it through the slot, but no one was home. The puck bounced back to Torey Krug at the point and he ripped one past Hunwick. Merrifield would hit the post before the end of the period, but it remained 2-1 Michigan after two.
The third period was a reminder of how wildly inconsistent CCHA officiating can be. The officials had really let them play for the first two periods and I was actually thinking how well-officiated the game had been. The third was characterized by weak calls all around. The Spartans capitalized on the ones in their favor. Michigan didn't, when an awful call gave them a late chance to tie the game.
Just 27 seconds into the third period, PDG was called for roughing on what was a completely-clean hit. Initially it looked like a possible hit from behind, but he clearly got him shoulder to shoulder. It was a hard hit, but completely legal. Not sure how they got roughing out of that. It was just another example of an alarming trend in college hockey where any hard hit is liable to get you sent to the box, if not ejected. This one was a game-changer.
It took the Spartans just under a minute to tie the game. Hunwick was run into, no call. Play continued, the puck got back to Krug at the point and he ripped another one past Hunwick to tie the game.
The Spartans momentum continued and Hunwick was forced to make a good stop on Buttery. FYS went back on the power play after a soft offensive-zone trip on DeBlois. He tapped the guy on the shin pads and he went down like he was shot.
That one came back to bite Michigan as well. Krug walked through the defense and got the puck to Berry by the back door. He had an empty net to shoot at and made it 3-2 Spartans.
You knew Michigan was going to get one opportunity with the man advantage to tie things back up after three Spartan power plays in the third, and that chance came with about 4 minutes left. Brett Perlini was called for elbowing on as poor of a call as you'll see all year. There was absolutely nothing wrong with that hit. The announcers described it well, saying that he was "winding up that elbow" as he went in for the check, but he didn't use it. They anticipated what was going to happen.
Unlike the Spartans, however, Michigan wasn't able to capitalize on a poor call in their favor. They only had one decent chance on the power play, PDG centered to Moffatt in front. The Wolverines got Hunwick out with about a minute left in regulation, but didn't have anything resembling a chance and the Spartans got the victory.
The next night at the Joe, Michigan was able to rebound from the loss. It wasn't easy, however. Both teams swapped periods of dominance. Michigan State had the edge in play through a large chunk of the third period, but Shawn Hunwick was fantastic. Michigan scored on a fluky goal in OT to get the victory.
Out of the gate, Michigan controlled the play. Clare had the first really good chance of the game as the late man on a 3-on-2. Treais got it to him with PDG driving the net. Yanakeff made a good collarbone save.
Hunwick made his first big stop of the game on Walrod, and Perlini sent the rebound off the side of the net.
Michigan took a 1-0 lead at the 12:12 mark of the first. PDG sent a behind-the-back pass to Glendening and Glendening found Treais in the slot. Yanakeff made the first stop but Treais corralled his own rebound and was able to tuck it into the net.
The next five minutes were much more back-and-forth. Walrod hit the post.
Early in the second period, Wohlberg turned it over, leading to a 2-on-1 for the Spartans. Bennett played it absolutely perfect and broke the play up without them getting a shot away.
Hunwick then made a great stop on Wolfe, but Wolfe got his revenge moments later off a pass from Walrod to make it 1-1.
Hyman ran into Yanakeff and knocked him over. The CCHA showed that they are willing to call goalie interference after all, and sent him off. Weird. I thought goalies were fair game...maybe that's just when Sergott is reffing.
On the power play, Perlini got the puck by the side of the net on the goal line. Hunwick cheated a little bit and crouched low. Perlini got a great shot away--put it right up over him and the Spartans had themselves a 2-1 lead.
Moments later, Hunwick made a game-changing stop on a Perlini breakaway. The would've made it 3-1 Michigan State. Instead, we got a TV timeout and a chance to calm things down a little bit. Right out of the TV timeout, Glendening fed Treais just inside the blueline. Treais ripped a wrist-shot from the top of the circle top-shelf, far side. He got it past Yanakeff's blocker to the tie the game at 2.
The teams would trade opportunities for the remainder of the second period. Michigan State nearly got back on top but Hunwick stopped Sorenson on a 2-on-1 and then the Spartans hit the post.
Late in the period, Guptill had himself a breakaway. He made a great move and when he got the shot away, it looked like it was destined for the back of the net, but Yanakeff got his blocker down and somehow kept it out. Jake Chelios was sent off for elbowing with about a minute left in the first. Merrill had a couple of keeps at the blueline, but nothing much came of it. Walrod had a great pass breakup to keep Guptill from being in all alone again in the waning seconds.
The first 16-or-so minutes of the third were as bad as Michigan has looked since before the GLI, but their Hobey Baker-candidate goaltending saved their bacon time and time again. Moffie made a good play to break up a potential Merrifield goal. Hunwick stopped a 2-on-1. Moffie turned it over and Michigan State had several good chances, but nothing really got through. Hunwick made a great little right pad save on Berry, and then Moffatt was called for hooking after another Moffie turnover.
Even though the PK struggled this weekend, they had a big, big kill there. Some good work by K. Lynch and DeBlois.
Mac Bennett then had a horrid turnover and Hunwick was right there to rob Trevor Nill and deny him a potential game-winner. Pateryn then rushed the puck and rung one off the post. The rebound came out to Bennett and he had the entire net to shoot at. He went high and may have caught iron as well.
Shots were 14-11 FYS in the final frame, but neither team was able to break the 2-2 tie and the game headed to overtime, just like the last time they met at the Joe.
And just like the previous overtime game at Joe Louis, it was the Wolverines coming out on top. Hunwick stopped Nill on a tough backhander and Wohlberg hit Guptill on a shot after a nifty little toe-drag around the defense.
Kevin Lynch just missed being the overtime hero once again off a feed from Travis Lynch, but Yanakeff was there. The puck came out to center and DeBlois dumped it back in. Crandall bent down to stop the bouncing puck, but somehow it got through his legs. Kevin Lynch had cycled back into the offensive zone and was right there to pounce on it. He fired it past a surprised Yanakeff and the Wolverines were victorious!
That was certainly not the gold standard for victories. There were way too many odd-man rushes allowed, the defense turned the puck over way too much, and the top line wasn't as effective as they need to be. But Hunwick was there when they needed him and they were able to gut out a victory to keep themselves in the CCHA title hunt.
Ferris State swept Notre Dame this weekend, so they lead Michigan by 6 points (and WMU by 5) with two weekends to play. Ferris and Western play each other the last weekend of the season, so it's probably unlikely that Michigan wins the conference title even if they sweep NMU and BGSU, but there's a chance, and they should certainly be able to get second place.
In the PWR, the Wolverines currently sit in 4th, though they're second in the RPI. Ferris State is tops in both at the moment. Nine CCHA teams rank in the top 20 of the PWR at the moment. Six would make the tournament if it started today. Miami is the last team in. Notre Dame (!), second-place Western Michigan (!) and LSSU would be three of the first five teams out.
Next weekend, the Wolverines have Northern Michigan at Yost, and again, both games will be on TV. The Big Ten Network will have Friday night's game. Saturday's game will air on FSN Detroit as part of Hockey Day in Michigan. Note the odd 5:05 EST start time on the Saturday game.
Lastly, vote for Shawn Hunwick for Hobey! He's 14% behind the lead right now, but there have only been 76,000 votes cast, so it only works out to about 10,000 votes. It seriously takes 2 seconds and you don't have to register for anything.