ANN ARBOR, MICH — It didn’t look or feel like a mid-October hockey game at Yost Ice Arena tonight. Two perennial powers used to meeting in the post-season No. 5 Boston College and No. 7 Michigan got together a bit early this season, with the Wolverines edging out a 3-2 win.
From the start, the crowd was electric, the intensity high, with each goalie making clutch saves. But Michigan scored first, jumping out to an early lead just 1:44 in to the game on the power play when freshman Jack Johnson knocked home his second goal of the season. The Wolverines never surrendered the lead, winning their third straight game.
“I think that was huge. To get the power play on track, and at least was a force in the first half of the game that was important,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “The lead was important; we never had to play from behind.”
The Eagles came close to sending the game to overtime with 27.5 seconds remaining in the third. Peter Harrold dashed into the zone, but crashed netminder Billy Sauer as he put the puck in the back of the net. The goal was called back by referee Matt Shegos, who had just made a similar call on Michigan’s Andrew Cogliano a minute before.
“I think we caught a break,” forward T.J. Hensick said. “It could have gone either way. But that’s Shegos’s decision. I think we did get lucky because Cogliano had the same situation a minute earlier.”
Both teams came out flying in the first, peppering the goaltenders with 25 total shots. Matt Hunwick and Johnson who combined for ten points in last weekend’s series against Quinnipiac opened the scoring on a two-man advantage. Hunwick sent a pass cross-ice to Johnson, who rocketed a shot in the top corner past goalie Cory Schneider.
“It’s pretty special to have two guys on the point that can create things with their shots,” Hensick said. “It makes it easier for us down low when they’re making shots and putting them on net. Being able to make plays like they can do up top forces the penalty-killers to stay up top, which gives us room down low.”
Hensick added a second power-play tally six minutes later. Hunwick ripped a shot from the point that hit Travis Turnbull, bouncing right to Hensick to the left of the net. The junior winger circled to the front and rifled in a shot for the two-goal lead.
Boston College responded with a power play goal of its own midway through the period.
After Andrew Ebbett was called for a hitting-from-behind misconduct, the Eagles didn’t waste any time, scoring less than two minutes into the five minute power play. Stephen Gionta won the faceoff, where Chris Collins picked up the puck and drove right to the net, beating Sauer between the legs, cutting the lead to 2-1.
Both teams played more conservatively in the second, clogging up the middle of the ice to lower the amount of scoring chances. But both teams still managed to score.
Turnbull, a freshman who had two goals taken away from him in his first game and given to other players, finally scored his first as a Wolverine 6:54 in to the second. From the side boards, Hensick sent a pass to Turnbull in the low slot. Turnbull batted a quick rebound by Schneider for the score.
Brian Boyle brought the Eagles to within one four minutes later. Boyle raced down the ice on a partial breakaway, wristing a puck that found its way between Sauer’s body and arm. With the puck dribbling over the blue paint, Dan Bertram crashed the net to push the puck over the line.
Both goalies sparkled in the nets, with Sauer stopping 22 of 24 shots and Schneider turning aside 35 of 38 scoring chances.
Berenson credited his young team for matching Boston College play for play.
“I think they responded well,” Berenson said. “We got sloppy in the third and were running around in our zone. Everyone had their moments out there where they weren’t so good. But when you win the game, it puts icing on the cake and you think everything’s fine. We’ve got to get better; we made a lot of mistakes.”
With such an intense, hard-fought game, Hensick was asked if the team will have trouble getting up to play Merrimack on Sunday.
“We’ve gotta have the same intensity,” Hensick said. “Once we figure that out, and this team is able to come out and play like this every night, we should have a special season.”
It was Boston College’s first game of the season, after an exhibition game was cut short due to fog in the arena. But meeting another top-10 team this early in the season will only prepare York’s team for bigger challenges down the road.
“I can’t speak for Red, but I think both coaches feel that it will benefit their clubs,” York said. “It’ll have good impacts on both sides; it bodes well for our future. It’s a long way to April, a lot of ups and downs. But I like what I saw tonight.”
Eagles’ coach Jerry York fell to 12-16-0 at Yost Arena.
“That’s what you come to Michigan for is these big games at Yost,” Johnson said. “I don’t think you can have a better hockey game or a better atmosphere anywhere in the country.”