ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The team that would not have qualified for the CCHA Tournament a year ago is on the verge of the second round.
After jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the second period, 12th-seeded Lake Superior State held on to beat Michigan, 4-3, at Yost Ice Arena on Friday night.
Lake Superior finished dead last in the CCHA each of the last two seasons, and qualified for this year’s postseason tournament because the field was increased from 10 teams to all 12.
Trailing by two goals with two minutes remaining, Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer scored off a feed from forward Mike Cammalleri. Moments later, Michigan defenseman Mike Komisarek blasted a shot from the blue line that was deflected and went flying towards the Lakers’ goal.
One thought crossed Komisarek’s mind: “Oh my god, it’s going in the net.”
But Komisarek and the Wolverines weren’t so fortunate. The puck was wide by a couple of inches.
Michigan outshot Lake Superior 42-16, but Lake Superior freshman goaltender Matt Violin made 39 saves in the upset. Lake Superior coach Frank Anzalone thought his team could have been outshot by a much larger margin.
“There is no doubt who the better club is,” Anzalone said,” but we were on our game as far as position play and if we hadn’t have been, Michigan probably would have had 80 shots,” he said.
The fact that the Lakers are only in the tournament because the CCHA wanted higher seeds to have more home games was on the players’ minds.
“It’s pretty wild; we are definitely really fortunate to be playing right now,” said leading scorer Jeremy Bachusz, who had two goals on the night.
The odds against Friday night’s upset were even worse considering the way the two teams were playing coming into the first round of the tournament. In the last 10 games, the Lakers and the Wolverines were going in separate directions. The Lakers had not won in their last 10 (0-9-1) and Michigan had gone 9-1, with its only loss coming in a nonconference game against Michigan State.
The victory was also just the second win for Lake Superior State on the road in the CCHA all season, and only its fifth against CCHA opponents.
The Wolverines are now one game away from being eliminated at home in the first round for the first time since 1989. But Anzalone and the Lakers are not looking forward to the next round just yet.
“This is not about winning the series,” he said. “This is about having something to cling to for the future. I hate to say this, but even if Michigan wins it in three and we competed in the three, we have taken a baby step.”
The Lakers’ fast start was the key Friday night. They committed a penalty a little over 20 seconds into the contest but, moments later, Bachusz stopped a shot by Cammalleri from the blue line and took it the other way for a breakaway goal on Josh Blackburn.
That was the first Lake Superior goal against Michigan all season, after the Wolverines posted two shutouts during the regular season.
Two minutes later, Chris McNamara also scored on a breakaway goal. Lake Superior’s first two goals came on its first two shots.
Bachusz and McNamara both scored again to give the Lakers a 4-0 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the second period despite being outshot 23-9 by the Wolverines in the stanza.
What does Anzalone think the Lakers will need on Saturday night to stop the Wolverines’ shots?
“A piece of Plexiglas in front of the net with no holes in it,” he said.