ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It had to come to an end.
No. 6 Michigan snapped a four-game winless streak with a 4-2 victory over Nebraska at Omaha at Yost Ice Arena. Captain Andrew Ebbett and assistant captain Brandon Kaleniecki led by example, combining for six points on the night.
Ebbett and Kaleniecki not only led the Wolverines on the scoresheet, but also were also instrumental in keeping the Mavericks’s potent line of Scott Parse, Bryan Marshall and Bill Thomas off the scoresheet – which no other team had done all season. Freshman Jason Bailey completed Michigan’s top trio.
“Coach (Red Berenson) challenged us this week to let us know we were going to take their top line out,” Ebbett said. “We took it upon ourselves to take that job and shut them down, and then get a few chances ourselves.”
While keeping the Parse-Marshall-Thomas trio at bay, Michigan’s top line connected on three of four Wolverine goals.
After Adam Bartholomay had put the Mavericks on top early in the first, the Wolverines picked up momentum off a five-on-three midway through the period. After the first penalty expired, Kaleniecki deflected Ebbett’s point shot by goalie Jared Kaufmann.
Exemplary of their dominating play in every situation, including the penalty kill, Ebbett setup the next Wolverine goal on a shorthanded effort. Ebbett stole the puck in the Wolverine zone to create a two-on-one with Jason Dest. Ebbett waited patiently before dropping the pass to Dest, who one-timed the puck over Kaufmann’s left shoulder for his first goal of the year.
“(Brandon) Scero tried to make a soft play up the boards to the defenseman, and (Dan) Knapp who got caught in between,” Mavericks coach Mike Kemp said. “It gets chipped past him, and they get a man advantage rush.”
Michigan’s number one line also sealed the victory late in the game, when Ebbett capped a three-point night with an empty-netter.
Without the advantage of last change, Kemp was unable to get his sco!
ring line free from Ebbett, Kaleniecki and Bailey’s defensive prowess.
“I figured early on, it’s one of those things you get no control over,” Kemp said. “I wasn’t able to get away from the matchup; we’ll have to wait until we get to Omaha for that opportunity.”
Berenson seemed to rely on the line all game long, including the last minute when Nebraska-Omaha had multiple chances to tie the score. Thomas had a partial breakaway with less than a minute left, but Billy Sauer stayed right with him to make the save before the net was dislodged. Sauer stopped 27 of 29 shots on the night.
Although Travis Turnbull beat Kaufmann with a tip shot late in the second, the Mavericks were close to mounting a comeback in the third. Just three minutes into the period, Rob Chappell’s point shot took a strange bounce off a Michigan defender’s stick, finding its way in the top corner. Chappell’s goal cut Michigan’s lead to 3-2.
Nebraska-Omaha thought they tied it with three minutes left in the contest. Sauer stopped a barrage of shots, but Mike Lawrence kept hacking away at the puck in front of the net. One shot finally crossed the line, but referee Steve Piotrowski waved it off, saying the whistle blew before the puck was in.
“I know our guys upstairs thought the whistle blew after the puck went in, but we’re biased,” Kemp said. “When the referee blows the whistle because he’s lost sight of the puck, he’s the only one who knows.”
The Nebraska-Omaha loss ended a four-game winning streak, its longest in four seasons. Both teams will face off again in Ann Arbor tomorrow night.