ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Shots from the point. If they get through, the power play works.
For Miami and Michigan, the air cleared from the point, allowing for the first four goals to come with the man advantage. But it was the third-ranked Wolverines (5-0-2 overall, 3-0-0 CCHA) who snatched more of them, squeezing out a tight 3-2 victory over the RedHawks (1-3-1, 0-1-0) in front of 6,322 fans at Yost Ice Arena.
“The power play clearly told the tale tonight,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “You don’t give them four power-play chances in the third period. They’ve got too much skill that can beat you.”
Two third-period power-play goals in a span of four minutes gave Michigan its fifth-straight victory. Meanwhile, the RedHawks are now winless in Ann Arbor in their past 11 games, though Friday was their closest effort in six years.
Miami slowed the Wolverines in the neutral zone, holding Michigan to its lowest shot output (23) of the season, while spattering 18 shots of its own.
“They’re the type of team that’s clutch-and-grab,” said Andy Hilbert, one of many Michigan forwards who had trouble moving the puck through center ice. “You just have to win the one-on-one battles and fight through them.”
But Hilbert and the rest of the Wolverines eventually won the battle when a Miami defender was taken away from the action.
Hilbert started the Michigan scoring with the man advantage when he took a long cross-ice pass from goaltender Josh Blackburn. From the blue line, Hilbert flipped the puck nonchalantly at Miami goaltender David Burleigh, which surprised the netminder as the puck dribbled under his pads.
Miami’s Jason Deskins scored the second power play goal of the night from the point to tie the game at 1-1 at the 12:48 mark of the second period.
The tally was Deskins’ second of the season, and a promising note for the junior, who is in a rush to get back to the timing and game speed after sitting out all but one game last season due to injury.
Two years ago, Deskins led the CCHA in scoring.
“It’s good to see him to see him score,” Blasi said. “We saw in training camp that he was pushing himself too much. It’s hard to tell him to tone it down. But he’s coming around.”
One player coming around fast on the Michigan end is freshman Mike Komisarek. The defenseman scored his first career goal, again from the point, to give the Wolverines a 2-1 lead, then assisted on Michigan’s third goal, by Mark Kosick.
“It was amazing,” Komisarek said of his first goal as a collegiate player. “We were practicing (shots) all week like that, and I must have missed the net 15 times.”
“He’s a great freshman,” Berenson said. “He’s been able to adjust to any challenge that we’ve given him.”
Berenson even replaced top-defenseman Jeff Jillson with Komisarek on one of the power-play units after Jillson angrily argued with referee Don Cline over a holding call, earning him a 10-minute misconduct.
After the game, Berenson gave Jillson the benefit of the doubt on the penalty.
The Miami player “was sticking him from behind in the ribs,” Berenson said. “The referee probably didn’t see the seriousness of the pitchforking.”
More than just special-teams play, the Wolverines came away with their most grind-it-out win thus far — something both coaches remarked as being CCHA hockey.
“I think the defense hit more tonight, Berenson said. “(Miami) is a close-checking team. They don’t give you much.”
Mark Francescutti is a sports editor for The Michigan Daily (www.michigandaily.com).