DETROIT, Mich. — By Seth Gordon/USCHO Arena reporter
Perhaps Michigan just prefers to play from behind. For the second consecutive game, Michigan came back to beat Lake Superior State, this time by the score of 5-2 at Joe Louis Arena.
As was the case on Thursday, when Michigan traveled to Sault Ste. Marie for a 4-3 comeback victory, the Wolverines did not look like the No. 4 team in the country until they fell behind. The Lakers outmuscled and outworked the faster Wolverines and gained a 2-1 advantage at 11:40 in the second with an even-strength goal by Nathan Ward.
Then Michigan’s talent awoke.
With Michigan putting the pressure on the Lakers, T.J. Hensick gained control of the puck behind the net and fought off his defender on his way around to the slot. Unable to get off a shot with a defender all over his stick, Hensick managed a pass to freshman Chad Kolarik, who took the pass just outside the crease and slid it past goalie Jeff Jakaitis’ left pad to tie the game.
Just 2:17 later Nick Martens gave Michigan a 3-2 lead with a power-play goal. Martens took a pass from Hensick in the corner and fired a slapshot from just inside the blue line that got through traffic to find the back of net. The Wolverines never looked back as they added two dazzling goals in the third period to make the score look convincing at 5-2.
“One thing you can take from (this) is that we have to play better early in the game,” Michigan head coach Red Berenson said. “I thought Lake State had us on our heels for at least a period and a half, and we finally got playing a little better. I thought they were out working us, outhitting us, outmuscling us and outhustling us. We just couldn’t get caught up with them. But then we finally did and I thought our team played better in the second half of the game.”
“I think that we’re getting a lot better,” LSSU head coach Frank Anzalone said. “It doesn’t matter how Michigan wins, as long as they win — because that’s what you have to do to be a No. 1 team. But, tonight I thought we did the things that were really good hockey things.
“We’re a Jim Dowd or a Doug Weight away from being a much better team. I thought we played a great game. I think Michigan’s talented players came through when they needed them. If we ever get to a point where we can finish some (plays) we will win some games.”
As for Michigan’s talent and high rankings, Berenson doesn’t think they have any bearing on his team winning games. He believes that his team must earn its keep on the ice, and when they do, success will follow.
“Everyone tells (our team) how good they are — they’re not that good,” Berenson said. “We have to play harder and better and then maybe we’ll find out how good we can be. That’s really my challenge and our team’s challenge.”
The Lakers opened the game as the aggressors as Mike Adamek corralled the opening faceoff and got behind the Michigan defense for an open shot on Al Montoya. Montoya stopped the shot and kept the Wolverines in the game early as LSSU kept the puck in the Michigan end.
Despite being outplayed for much of the period, Michigan took a 1-0 lead when Hensick broke in and scored on Jakaitis. Hensick approached the crease from the left circle, faked to his backhand, carried the puck across the crease and slid the puck inside the right post.
LSSU was finally rewarded for its hard work with a goal 38 seconds into the second period. The Lakers capitalized on a power play that carried over from the end of the first period.
On the play, Michigan made a poor attempt to clear the puck up the boards and Alex Dunn collected the puck and fired it past an out-of-position Montoya.
Lake Superior gained the lead 11:40 into the period when Nathan Ward fired a beautiful wrist shot over Montoya’s stick-side shoulder. Ward stood uncovered between the circles when B.J. Pelkey fed him the puck from the left corner. Ward was unable to one-time the pass, but collected the puck to his forehand and put the Lakers ahead.
Five minutes later the Wolverines answered with Kolarik’s goal.
The third period saw Michigan dominate with its superior speed. Michigan center Andrew Ebbett gave the Wolverines a two-goal cushion when he finished a cross-ice pass from Milan Gajic. Gajic raced up the right side after a Laker turnover and found Ebbett behind Jakaitis on the far side of the crease for the goal.
Eric Werner closed out the scoring on a play that exhibited the gap in talent between the two teams. David Moss controlled the puck and avoided defenders as he danced around the left circle, turned and fired the puck to the open Werner. Werner waited for Jakaitis to go down before lifting the puck into the top of the net with 11:58 to play.
Michigan returns to the ice on Friday Oct. 29 for a home-and-home series with Ferris State. LSSU will take to the road for a pair of games at Bowling Green during the same span.