ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For sports fanatics in Ann Arbor who weren’t in the mood to spend their Sunday evening watching “A Season on the Brink,” they now have something else to do.
Michigan’s 4-1 win over Lake Superior State on Saturday night extended this opening-round CCHA playoff series to a deciding third game, to take place at Yost Ice Arena on Sunday. Faceoff is 7:35 p.m., with the winner advancing to the “Super Six” at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit next weekend.
The Wolverines struck quickly with two goals in the first 10 minutes and hung on to dispatch a feisty Lake Superior team that fully intended to return to the Soo as victors this evening. Mike Cammalleri accounted for most of Michigan’s scoring with a hat trick.
“These are the games when your best players have to be your best players, and Cammalleri was for us tonight,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said.
The contest was a one-goal game in disguise. The Wolverines led 2-1 deep into the third period when Lake Superior State’s Chris McNamara was whistled for holding with 5:26 to play. During the ensuing power play, a scrum in front of the net knocked loose the stick of Lakers’ goaltender Matt Violin, and Cammalleri exploited the resulting five-hole before Violin had the opportunity to retrieve the lumber. That gave Michigan a 3-1 advantage with just 4:44 remaining.
Cammalleri finished his evening — and Lake Superior State’s — with an empty-netter from the blue line at the 17:50 mark.
For the Lakers, “The Little Team That Could”, a return to the rink on Sunday means not just tremendous confidence after beating the Wolverines Friday night, but a very tangible asset as well the play of goaltender Violin, who stopped more than 30 shots both Friday and Saturday nights. A good proportion came on grade-A scoring opportunities for Michigan.
Berenson had more than token praise for the Lake Superior State freshman. “He’s played terrific. He’s come in here and been a real factor.” Win or lose, the ability of Violin and his mates to stretch this series beyond its minimum length provides the Lakers an opportunity to take more momentum into the offseason than any 8-27-2 team has the right to take. And that will only help the foundation that Lake Superior State coach Frank Anzalone is trying so desperately to rebuild.
Violin, an Anzalone recruit, said he can see progress already. “The discipline and skill of the team has improved in just one year,” he said.
Should the Lakers find themselves on top at the conclusion of tomorrow’s game, they’ll earn an instant return on what will otherwise be a long-term investment.