ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan narrowed the gap between first and second place in the CCHA standings Friday night with an impressive 4-1 win over Miami. But coach Red Berenson wasn’t exactly basking in the victory afterwards.
“They’re the best team in the league until someone proves otherwise, and this victory tonight does not prove anything,” Berenson said. “We’re still a point behind them.”
Michigan (20-8-1 overall, 15-5-1 CCHA) now has 31 points and a chance to overtake the RedHawks — who have sat atop the CCHA for the last nine weeks — in the second game of the weekend series.
The Wolverines won Friday with balanced scoring and a strong defensive effort. Juniors David Moss, Eric Nystrom and Dwight Helminen each had a goal and an assist, and Jason Ryznar scored the game-winner. Ryznar has three goals in his last three games after scoring just two in his first 18 games.
Sophomore Taylor Hustead scored for Miami (18-10-3, 15-6-2).
The Wolverines started the first period with some jump and opened up a 2-0 lead on goals from Moss and Ryznar.
“We knew the start of the game would be huge,” Berenson said. “We had to put our best foot forward early, obviously, to get some momentum and get the crowd in the game.”
The RedHawks never really recovered, although they cut their deficit to 2-1 with a little more than three minutes left in the period.
“(The Wolverines) were the better team all night, and they were able to execute,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “We just didn’t match their play.”
Helminen pushed Michigan’s lead back to two goals when he beat Brandon Crawford-West with a falling-down backhander in the second period, and Nystrom added an insurance goal at the end of the third period.
Michigan held Miami shotless until more than halfway through the first period and shut down the RedHawks’ prolific first and second lines, including leading scorer Derek Edwardson, whom the program is touting as a Hobey Baker candidate. The Wolverines also kept the RedHawks scoreless in four power-play chances (Michigan went 1-for-5 with the man-advantage).
“Right down the line, all six defenseman played well tonight, and played equal time,” Michigan captain Andy Burnes said. “It was good to see Al (Montoya) make a couple of big saves. Everybody bought into the defensive style of the game.”
Montoya, the Wolverines’ standout sophomore between the pipes, stopped 24 shots on his 19th birthday and was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” by the Yost Arena crowd during the second period.