DETROIT — No controversy this time.
Thursday, the Lake Superior State Lakers defeated the Michigan Wolverines 2-1 on a controversial goal by Tyson Turgeon. Turgeon hit the right post of the net, and it looked as if it was no goal. But after discussing it with the goal judge (who did not turn the red light on), referee Brent Rutherford signaled the game-winning goal for Lake Superior.
Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, there was no goal in doubt, no game-winner to be decided by a referee’s hand. Instead, the Wolverines got back on the winning track with a 5-2 victory.
“I can’t tell you we played our best game, [but] it’s a huge win because we put so much on us,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson, whose team had been winless in its last four games.
Meanwhile, the Lakers failed to put an end to their playoff doubts. The Lakers remained one point behind Bowling Green (which lost to Western Michigan) for 10th place and the final CCHA playoff spot. Lake Superior has a home-and-home series with Northern Michigan next weekend. Bowling Green hosts Ferris State for two games.
If the Lakers fall short of a playoff berth, it will be their first postseason absence in more than 20 years.
“It will be extremely hard [if we don't make the playoffs],” said Borek, whose team has been littered with injuries all season. “It’s been the most difficult season for me.”
Besides playoff doubts, in the past four games, the first period has haunted the Wolverines. Michigan hasn’t scored first in those games, a huge concern for Berenson.
Saturday night, the Wolverines cured their blues just 2:47 into the game when fourth-liner freshman Joe Kautz scored his second career goal on a backhand in front of the Lake Superior net.
“It’s an important goal – how many games have we gone without scoring,” Berenson said. “Joey’s getting a little more confidence out there. We need guys like Joe to step up, no matter how many goals you’ve had this year.”
Lake Superior tied the game at a goal apiece when Aaron Davis skated all alone in on Blackburn and put it past the Michigan goaltender on the power play.
Davis almost made it 2-1 when he had another great scoring opportunity.
Receiving a centering pass from Bart Redden, Davis was unable to score on a wide-open net before Blackburn covered the hole.
Lake Superior notched the lead for real in the second period when a bouncing puck went awry near the Michigan net. Bothered by two Michigan defenders, Jason Nightingale backhanded the puck in mid-air past Blackburn.
The Wolverines responded with back-to-back goals by Craig Murray and Andy Hilbert, both at a far distance from Jayme Platt’s net. Murray’s slapper from the top of the left circle on the power play tied the game at 2. Four minutes later, Hilbert fired a blast at a screened Platt along the right boards in the middle of the Lake Superior zone to make it 3-2.
“It’s good to see [Hilbert] back on the scoreboard, but it’s good to see other guys [like Murray] step up as well,” Berenson said.
Mike Cammalleri padded the Wolverines’ lead in the third period. The first-line sophomore took the puck in the corner swung around a Lake Superior defender and charged to the front of the net, where he slipped it past Platt for a 4-2 lead. Hilbert added an empty-netter as Platt left the ice with a minute left.
Lake Superior kept up with Michigan on the shot chart. The Wolverines only outshot the Lakers 27-24. But roughness and chippiness took over in the last half of the game as Rutherford handed out 66 minutes in penalties in the final 32 minutes, including four misconducts.
“They got physical, maybe even a little dirty,” Borek said. “With all the power plays, we really got tired. We’re playing a short bench.”
Both teams have struggled with injuries and played shorter benches. Lake Superior still has four players out. Michigan lost senior Josh Langfeld for two to four weeks a weekend ago, and sophomore Jed Ortmeyer is out for the season.
Battered and bruised, Michigan’s second-place hopes remained strong.
With the victory, the Wolverines (35 points) still haven’t clinched the second seed in the CCHA tournament. Nebraska-Omaha (33 points) can’t catch up because it’s finished with league play. But if Michigan loses its lone game remaining at Michigan State on Thursday, and Miami (31 points) wins its last two games (a home-and-home series with Ohio State), Miami would clinch the second seed.
The RedHawks would have 17 league wins to Michigan’s 16 — league wins are the first CCHA tiebreaker and head-to-head competition is the second (Michigan beat Miami in both of its contests this season).