ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Despite leading No. 2 Michigan with 40 shots this season, forward Jeff Tambellini had tallied just one goal coming into this weekend’s home series against Miami. But, on Friday night, Tambellini turned things around in a big way, singlehandedly outscoring the RedHawks with his second career hat trick in the Wolverines’ 5-2 victory.
“It’s a great feeling every time the puck goes in the net,” Tambellini said. “The last couple of weeks, our line has had a lot of chances. As long as the puck is going in the net and we get chances, it’s good. But, to finally see the puck go in the back of the net [for me], it’s a relief for sure.”
Not to be overlooked was the performance of center David Moss, who set up each of Tambellini’s three goals.
“He had a heck of a game tonight,” Tambellini said of Moss. “He made a couple of passes that I know a lot of guys in this league can’t make. It’s great playing with a guy who can see the ice like that.”
For Miami, the game was a failed attempt to end two losing streaks at the same time. The RedHawks entered the game on a four-game skid and hadn’t won at Yost Ice Area in their last 17 tries.
“It’s very difficult [to turn things around on the road],” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. “We’re banged up and Michigan was picked and ranked where they are for a reason they’re a very good team. They’re a veteran team, they’re well-coached and they play well at home.
“Again, you have to come out and play hard. We have to do a better job on the [penalty kill]. And, when we do have power-play chances, we have to bury them. We did have some chances, but Montoya came up big.”
Michigan goalie Al Montoya had a solid game in net, but did give up a late goal when Matt Christie, the nation’s leading scorer heading into the night, broke in alone to make the final 5-2.
In conjunction with the Moss-to-Tambellini connection, the Michigan power play provided the difference. Two of Tambellini’s tallies, combined with power-play goals by freshman Chad Kolarik and sophomore T.J. Hensick, gave the Wolverines four scores with the man advantage in one game for the first time since Jan. 10, 2003, against Western Michigan.
“We worked all week [to put] more focus on the power play,” Moss said. “That’s what the whole game is now a lot of power plays. I think we moved the puck a lot quicker tonight and caught them out of position and put a few in the net.”
Tambellini scored once in each period and opened the scoring just 1:40 into the game with a blistering slapshot from the top of the right circle that beat Miami goalie Brandon Crawford-West over his glove shoulder.
The entire Miami defense had collapsed to the left side of the ice, but Moss managed to chip the puck across to a wide-open Tambellini, who converted Michigan’s first shot, its only even-strength goal of the game.
The Wolverines dominated the first period, outshooting Miami 13-7 with three power plays, but only managed a 1-1 tie after the RedHawks added a late power-play goal by junior center Chris Michael. Miami moved the puck around Michigan zone before Michael corralled a rebound in front of the net and put a wrister past Montoya.
The Wolverines seized the momentum back early in the second period when Tambellini scored his second goal. After cycling the puck around the Miami zone, Moss took a pass at the bottom of the left circle and sent the puck directly across the ice to Tambellini at the bottom of the right circle. Tambellini paused before firing a wrist shot past Crawford-West.
Kolarik added his power-play goal later in the second to give the Wolverines a two-goal cushion.
Tambellini completed his hat trick in the third period when Moss set him up in the slot and he beat Crawford-West high and right for his second power-play goal.
Hensick closed the scoring for Michigan when he slid the puck underneath Crawford-West, who was sprawling across the crease to recover from being out of position.
Tempers flared shortly after Michigan’s Jason Ryznar took offense to a slash by Miami captain Andy Greene. Several players joined in a fray that lasted for several minutes.
The fracas resulted in a total of 16 penalties, including the ejection of Michigan captain Eric Nystrom. Nystrom was promptly removed from the ice for continuing to jaw with Miami players while in the penalty box.
The emotions were not limited to the ice, as hostilities spilled over into the crowd. A fight almost began between Michigan fans and Miami family and supporters. Several fans from each side were escorted from the stands.
During the ensuing Michigan power play, Miami’s Christie broke in alone and beat Montoya.
Saturday night’s rematch promises to pick up where this one left off.
“[Saturday] will be a feisty night,” Tambellini said. “Right from the get-go it’s going to be a war. We fight with these guys from day one right to the end of the season. It should be a big matchup tomorrow night.”