GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In 1998, when the Wolverines won the national title by defeating Boston College 3-2 in overtime, Michigan’s freshman class helped sustain their squad through the NCAA Tournament. Then-rookies Mark Kosick and Josh Langfeld proved essential to Michigan’s success when they accounted for all three Wolverine goals against BC.
It’s deja vu all over again.
In Michigan’s 4-3 win over St. Cloud State, seniors Kosick and Langfeld registered the first two Wolverine goals, and classmate Geoff Koch tallied the game-winner. Sophomore Mike Cammalleri was the only Wolverine who didn’t play in that championship game who scored a goal.
Head coach Red Berenson, who has been candid about this senior class’ inconsistency since its brilliant freshman year, gave credit where it was due after the win.
“Our senior class, they’ve had their moments this season, but you can see why they won in ’98, and certainly they’ve all stepped forward tonight,” Berenson said. “This weekend was a great effort by our seniors. Mark Kosick and [Scott] Matzka and Langfeld and Geoff Koch — you look who scored the goals tonight and who gave us a great effort the entire weekend. The seniors were key.”
“Given our freshman year, we kind of took it for granted, didn’t realize how hard it is to get back,” said Matzka. “This is one of the best feelings I’ve had in my four years here.”
Langfeld added, “This is a great game for our team. For us to come out and set the tone early is a great accomplishment.”
The Wolverines set that early tone on first-period goals by Kosick and Langfeld. At 13:30 on the power play, Mike Komisarek’s shot from the top of the slot banked in off of Kosick, who was stationed right in front of the net.
Langfeld made it 2-0 at 17:59 on a coast-to-coast, three-senior effort. Defenseman Dave Huntzicker picked up the puck in the left corner behind the St. Cloud net and passed up to Kosick in the neutral zone, who pushed it up to Langfeld, flying in on the right wing. Without breaking stride, Langfeld found the puck and fired from the top of the right circle, beating Scott Meyer clean on the near side.
Michigan led 2-0 after one.
“I thought we started very slow,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “I was a little surprised by that, since we haven’t done that all year. As the game went on I thought we got somewhat better, but we never got into our total game all night.”
Early in the second, Brandon Sampair’s goal cut the lead to one. Sampair won a draw in the left circle and passed back to Nate DiCasmirro high in the slot. DiCasmirro’s shot was blocked and deflected left, where Sampair put the loose puck into the net behind Josh Blackburn.
Michigan led 3-1 at the end of two on Cammalleri’s second-period goal at 17:19. In the left corner, Andy Hilbert battled for the puck and sent it out to Koch behind the St. Cloud net. Koch’s centering pass found Cammalleri right in front of the crease, and the sophomore’s shot went in five-hole.
Early in the third on the Husky power play, Mark Hartigan made it 3-2 just after Hilbert missed the net the at the other end on a shorthanded odd-man break, but two minutes later a goal that was initially waved off held up as the game-winner for the Wolverines.
From the left corner, Hilbert fed Koch, who was skating in hard on the right. The puck and Koch seemed to hit the crease simultaneously, but after review the officials determined the puck got their first and Koch’s goal from the right post at 3:20 counted.
Keith Anderson brought the Huskies within one on the power play at 14:52 in the third, tipping in Joe Motzko’s shot from between the circles, but in spite of the extra skater for the final 1:16 in the game, St. Cloud couldn’t catch Michigan.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Michigan,” said Dahl. “I thought they played an outstanding defensive game. I don’t believe we’ve been held to [so few] shots on net this year. They did an outstanding job of containing our players and blocking shots, and keeping us from getting to the net with our shots.”
Michigan outshot St. Cloud State, 33-21, and 18 of St. Cloud’s 51 attempts were blocked by the Wolverine defense, a team effort Berenson called a “focal point” in the win.
“Certainly it showed up on the ice tonight, starting with our defensemen but our forwards coming back,” he said. “You saw St. Cloud going to the net time and time again with someone on their back.”
Dahl said that even though Michigan had the jump on his squad, the Huskies kept battling. “No matter what the score was, you never detected a note of our guys giving up. We were going to keep battling right to the end and I think you saw an example of that. To me, that’s been a hallmark of our program, and I’m very proud of them for that.”
The Huskies end their season with a record of 31-9-1, St. Cloud State’s best-ever.
Berenson said his Wolverines (25-13-5) are a determined crew.
“Our team in the last few years has been right on the bubble in terms of getting there. We lost a tough game in overtime to New Hampshire two years ago … and last year we lost we were leading in the third period to Maine and we just finally wore out. This year, we’re playing without [defensemen] Andy Burnes and Jed Ortmeyer and there’s a lot of concern about the depth on this team, but we’ve seen players step up.
“Once that game [with Mercyhurst] started yesterday, I could just sense that this team has got something on their minds, that they really want to do it. A lot of teams get to the playoffs and play hard, but this team is playing harder than hard, and they’re playing together.”