ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Following its impressive 3-1 win over No. 7 Michigan State on Friday, St. Lawrence came up short in its ambitious attempt to sweep both of the top-ten teams in the state of Michigan, falling 5-2 to the No. 3 Wolverines on Saturday night.
Michigan took control for good when Jason Ryznar beat Saints goalie Mike McKenna on a penalty shot at 13:39 in the second period to put Michigan up 3-1.
On a play where the timing had to be perfect, Ryznar emerged from the penalty box and collected the puck just inside the St. Lawrence blue line. St. Lawrence defenseman Matt McDonald was unable to beat Ryznar to the puck before hooking the Michigan forward which drew the whistle of referee Brian Aaron.
“There is a lot of pressure (on the penalty shot),” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “The referee gave us an option — we could take a two-minute penalty and go on the power play or we could take the penalty shot. There’s a bit of a risk there, but I want to show confidence in Jason Ryznar, too.
“I’d hate to turn down that chance and not let him have that shot. He’s the only one who can take the shot in that case. You have to show confidence in your players, and that’s what I did.”
Ryznar took the puck at center ice, skated between the circles and fired a wrist shot past McKenna’s blocker to give the Wolverines a two-goal cushion.
“It was an important goal in the game,” Berenson said. “Here’s a 2-1 game at that point and they had some momentum. I thought it was the turning point in the game. And I’m glad for a kid like Jason. Here’s a kid who right now might be our hardest working player and you saw it all weekend, every time he was on the ice. And is it ever nice to see him get rewarded for it.”
Although the final score appeared lopsided, the Saints remained in the game even after Ryznar’s goal.
Kyle Rank brought the Saints back within one goal 4:55 into the third period with a rebound goal on the power play.
“We came out hard,” said T.J. Trevelyan, whose shot from the point was the source of the rebound that Rank fired home past Michigan goalie Al Montoya. “We could’ve had them. It was a penalty shot that decided it, but I’m pretty happy with our team’s performance.
A high energy third period Rank’s goal with both teams creating scoring chances and both goalies coming up with big saves. The Wolverines did not ice the game until Eric Werner beat McKenna stick-side at 17:50 in the third.
For Werner, the game was redemption for a poor game one night earlier against New Hampshire. Werner added two assists to his goal and was named the No. 1 star of the game.
“When you’re a coach sometimes you can challenge a player,” Berenson said. “I think Werner responded. Certainly, we expect a better game from Eric Werner than we saw last night, and I told him that in no uncertain terms.
“He’s a senior and he should be one of the best defenseman in this league. He’s gotta play like that every night. That’s the responsibility when you’re a senior — you’ve gotta take charge and be that player that you’re supposed to be — and I thought Werner did a great job tonight.”
Michigan tacked on an empty-net goal by captain Eric Nystrom, who fired the puck down-ice after Ryznar played keepaway from the St. Lawrence forwards in the Michigan end.
The Wolverines dominated the game statistically, outshooting the Saints 43-25, but McKenna was there all night to frustrate the Wolverines.
“I can’t tell you we solved him,” Berenson said. “We had some good chances and he made some big saves. When there are loose pucks around the net you gotta find a way to get them in — rebounds. I thought our power play kicked at least one in. Ryznar’s penalty shot was — that was a real one-on-one — that was huge. I thought it was the turning point in the game. He went in a beat the goalie with a clean shot.
“I thought we came out and played a pretty good game,” McKenna said. “We were really rolling from last night, obviously that was a big win for us. We tried to carry that energy over to tonight, and for the most part I think we did. We just came up a little short.”
St. Lawrence will take the tough road experience back East for back-to-back games at Maine next weekend.
“It’s a big step for us in the right direction,” McKenna said. “We had a good weekend at the Ice Breaker Tournament last weekend and this week was just another step in the right direction. We’re building towards winning a championship — that’s all we want to do.”
Michigan will also turn towards league play as they head north to face Lake Superior in Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday.
“We’re feeling good right now,” Berenson said. “We starting to play hockey. I think we’ve waited — I think it seemed like forever to play some games — and now we’re getting some games. We’re playing against tough opponents every night. Every game we play in the CCHA is going to be very similar to what we saw this weekend — good teams, good intensity. I thought it was good for our team.”