ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan and Bowling Green played a decidedly closer game Saturday than Friday’s high-scoring contest. The CCHA-leading Wolverines won 5-2, but it was a one-goal game for much of the night, until Michigan broke it open in the second half of the third period.
“It was a real spirited game,” Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch said. “I’m proud of the way our guys competed. Unfortunately, Michigan took advantage of the mistakes we made. That’s why they’re one of the best teams in the country.”
After losing 7-3 Friday, the Falcons seemed to bring more speed and intensity Saturday night and led 1-0 in the first period.
“Their forwards, I thought, played a lot stronger,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “They were quicker tonight and more dangerous, and parts of the game, they had us on our heels.”
But it was one of Michigan’s forwards that made the difference. Dwight Helminen, whom Berenson called the “game-breaker,” netted two third-period goals.
Helminen wristed in a shorthanded marker that gave the Wolverines a 3-1 lead at 6:30. Less than a minute later, Kevin Bieksa scored his second of the night to pull Bowling Green back within one. But Helminen answered with another of his patented wrist shots, and Michael Woodford sealed the deal 35 seconds later.
Juniors Milan Gajic and Brandon Rogers also scored for Michigan (23-8-1, 18-5-1). Al Montoya made 32 saves.
Bowling Green goaltender Jordan Sigalet faced 42 shots, and had to make several point-blank saves in the second period to keep the Falcons in the game. Sigalet, who allowed seven goals Friday night, leads the nation in saves.
“We knew Jordan was going to come back strong,” Paluch said. “He’s so mentally strong, and I think tonight he proved why he’s one of the best goalies in the country.”
The Falcons’ penalty-kill unit was kept busy. Michigan enjoyed 11 power plays, but capitalized on just one. Bowling Green was 2-of-6 with the man-advantage. The officials called a total of 54 penalty minutes — considerably less than Friday’s 94 but still too many, in Michigan’s opinion.
“I think the ref played a pretty big part in the game,” Michigan captain Andy Burnes said. “Our team kept our focus. A lot of guys were getting upset with the refs, and we tried to keep the guys focused on the task at hand.”
It was a good weekend for Michigan players whose scoring touch had been M.I.A. Woodford banged one in for his first goal of the season one night after Jeff Tambellini broke a 16-game drought.
Woodford and Tambellini share a house with several teammates, including Burnes. But the captain, who has not scored this season, wasn’t sure that he’d be the next housemate to rediscover the net.
“We’ll see about that,” Burnes said. “Tonight would’ve been the night for it. But I’m a defensive defenseman. I’ll take it when I get it, but I’m not going to press it.”
After the game, Michigan honored its three seniors — Burnes, Joe Kautz and David Wyzgowski. This was their last regular season game in Yost Arena. Berenson considered dressing Kautz and Wyzgowski, who are not regulars in the lineup, but he decided he “didn’t want to take the chance.” With two weeks left in the regular season, Michigan leads the CCHA by five points, but Miami and Michigan State are mathematically still in the title race.
Michigan travels to Notre Dame next weekend before closing out the regular season against the Spartans. Bowling Green finishes its CCHA schedule with Northern Michigan and Western Michigan.