DETROIT — The ice seemed tilted toward the Michigan net from the beginning.
Instead of being a closely-contested match between No. 6 Michigan and No. 7 Colorado College at the Great Lakes Invitational, the Tigers pounced on a depleted Michigan team, beating the Wolverines 6-1 at Joe Louis Arena.
Michigan was without three of its top defensemen, with Jack Johnson and Mark Mitera both playing for the U.S. at the World Junior Championship and David Rohlfs suspended for fighting in Michigan’s last game against Nebraska-Omaha. Colorado College did not send any players to the WJC.
“(Missing players like defenseman) Jack Johnson and their freshman (forward Andrew Cogliano) on the Canadian team is a big factor,” Colorado College coach Scott Owens said. “There’s no doubt about it. But that’s their issue. Sometimes in games like this, other guys give you great efforts and pull it together.”
Colorado College took full advantage of the situation, with senior Joey Crabb leading the effort with two goals and an assist, and the Tigers’ special teams scoring five of six goals — three on the power play and two shorthanded tallies.
“Special teams were a big factor in the game,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “They had the momentum from the start of the game, and we couldn’t turn it around.”
The Tigers started peppering Wolverine netminder Billy Sauer early, putting 18 shots on net in the first. Michigan finally cracked late in the period on the power play. Michigan’s Chris Fragner smashed Jesse Stokke into the boards, earning a checking-from-behind major penalty. Colorado College capitalized on the five-minute advantage when Jimmy Kilpatrick’s point shot deflected up along a Michigan defender’s stick and sailed high past goaltender Billy Sauer.
Crabb scored twice in under three minutes to give Colorado College a commanding three-goal lead early in the second. With the Tigers shorthanded, Crabb jumped on defenseman Adam Dunlap in front of the Wolverine net and forced a turnover, and then lifted a shot over Sauer.
“We hoped to get on them, forecheck, work their defense, and tire them out,” Crabb said. “When we did get the opportunity to capitalize on them, we did.”
Crabb notched his second on the power play, sneaking behind the Michigan defense and beating Sauer glove-side. Brian Salcido one-timed a rocket from the point that clipped inside the left post for the Tigers’ third power-play goal with four minutes left in the period.
Andrew Ebbett had a glimmer of hope for Michigan late in the second, racing down the ice on a breakaway. Ebbett tried to go five-hole, but goaltender Matt Zaba stoned the Michigan captain. It was one of the few good offensive chances the Wolverines had all night, before Brandon Naurato broke Zaba’s shutout bid early in the third. Zaba stopped 29 of 30 shots.
“When we did get it in their zone they made a quick play and it was out,” Michigan forward Brandon Kaleniecki. “We didn’t have a sustained forecheck at all. There were a couple shifts when we were able to put a little bit of that together, but for the most part they just out-muscled us and got the puck out. We didn’t do that.”
Noah Ruden replaced Sauer for the third period, but the damage had already been done to the Wolverines. Sauer allowed four goals on 32 shots, and Ruden allowed two goals on 12 shots.
Brett Sterling added another Tiger goal on an individual effort, deking Ruden and slipping the puck five-hole. Trevor Frischmon tallied the sixth Tiger goal.
The meeting between Colorado College and Michigan was a rematch of last year’s NCAA quarterfinal, when the Tigers came from behind in the third period to defeat the Wolverines 4-3. With the win, Colorado College advances to the finals to meet Michigan State Friday night.
It was the Tigers first-ever win in the tournament, after previously losing to the University of Toronto and Boston University in the inaugural GLI in 1965. It was Michigan’s worst goal-differential loss in the GLI since 1987, when Wisconsin beat Michigan 6-0.