ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In a battle of two injury-laden teams, No. 8 Michigan used an emotional first period to grind past Lake Superior State, 2-0, on Friday night at Yost Ice Arena.
The Lakers had their chances, especially in the second and third periods when they outshot the Wolverines 23-12. But Michigan’s defense, which gave up 15 goals last weekend, did a turnabout, shutting out the Lake Superior attack.
Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn stopped all 29 shots to earn his second shutout of the season.
The injury tally didn’t help the Lakers (10-13-0 overall, 6-10-0 CCHA), who by the end of the game hurt even more. Already down several players including Jeremy Bachusz, Lake Superior lost defenseman Ryan Knox in the first period.
Knox missed five games earlier in the season and did not return for the rest of Friday’s game.
“It’s been an unbelievable year,” said Lakers’ coach Scott Borek, whose team lost for the 11th time in 14 games. “We’ve had an injured player in every game.”
Meanwhile, the Wolverines (14-5-3, 8-3-1), still down several players including three defenseman — Dave Huntzicker (knee), Jay Vancik (knee) and Mike Komisarek (playing in World Juniors) — used only five, and some, like last year’s walk-on Brad Fraser, were extremely rusty.
But after a week of concentrating on defense, Michigan’s forwards tended to play back a little more. The Wolverines scored two first-period goals quickly, which was all they needed.
The defense, including a penalty kill unit that held the Lakers scoreless on nine tries, couldn’t come at a better time after a hellish weekend at the Great Lakes Invitational, where the Wolverines lost 7-3 to Michigan Tech (which entered the game 3-13-1) then were shellacked 8-5 by Boston College.
“Our team is not stupid,” Berenson said. “We had a nightmare of a weekend. We’re a better team than that.
“We felt a lot of pressure tonight and we responded well.”
The Wolverines’ first goal, tallied by sophomore Jed Ortmeyer, came off a bounce from Geoff Koch. The puck trailed towards the point, where Ortmeyer slapped it past Lake Superior goaltender Jayme Platt.
“We knew the first goal would be important, particularly coming off last weekend,” Berenson said. “The second goal was luck.”
Craig Murray scored off a big rebound that floated into almost the same area as Ortmeyer’s to put the Wolverines up 2-0.
Michigan outshot the Lakers 17-6 in the period.
“That first period was all emotion,” Borek said of the Wolverines’ flurry. “Unfortunately, we did tell our team [about Michigan's losses in the GLI]. We knew about their emotion.”
The Wolverines felt they owed Lake Superior after the Lakers trounced Michigan twice at Yost last season.
“We know,” Borek said. “They have a sign about last year in their locker room.”
Both goaltenders had successful games. Platt played one of his best games this season, according to Borek.
“[Platt]‘s been working hard to get his game going,” Borek said. “Blackburn, he didn’t just play well, he controlled the game.”
“The guys did a great job keeping the shots outside,” Blackburn said. “We didn’t have any odd-man rushes.”
Borek called time out after the second Wolverines’ goal. The Lakers then regrouped with opportunities to score in the final two periods.
“If we played the first period as we did in the last two periods, the outcome would have been different,” Borek said.