DETROIT — It wasn’t pretty or perfect by any means, but by the time the final horn sounded No. 6 Michigan outlasted Michigan Tech to capture a 5-3 win in the Great Lakes Invitational consolation game.
Both teams went back and forth for two periods. Michigan Tech took a one-goal lead into the third for the second-straight night, but again couldn’t hold on to secure a win. The Huskies lost in overtime to Michigan State, 3-2, on the opening night of the GLI. Michigan lost to Colorado College 6-1 in its opener.
“Obviously, we were disappointed in ourselves. In both games we had a one-goal lead going into the third period,” Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell said. “We’re a young hockey team and we have to learn the little things that it takes to win hockey games, especially when you’re playing top-end teams.”
Jason Bailey started Michigan’s first third-period comeback of the season. Brandon Kaleniecki forced a turnover deep in the Huskie zone, and T. J. Hensick found Bailey at the edge of the crease for a tip-in five minutes into the third.
“Coming off yesterday’s games, both teams were disappointed,” Michgan coach Red Berenson said. “We needed life and I think it was that tying goal in the third period that gave us the life.”
Chad Kolarik put the Wolverines ahead with three minutes left in the game. Kolarik and Tim Miller battled for the puck behind the Huskie net and worked it out front where Kolarik muscled a shot behind goaltender Rob Nolan.
“I don’t really know how he got the puck to the net, but I called out (to Miller) and he chipped it to me,” Kolarik said. “I just threw it to the net and got lucky; it went off the post and in.”
Miller capped the win with an empty netter to secure third place for Michigan in the GLI.
But it took a dogged effort from a shorthanded Michigan roster – Michigan was without four starters that were playing at the World Junior Championship in Vancouver – to battle back twice and tie the score before breaking the game open in the third.
The teams traded power-play goals in the first period. Michigan Tech’s Tyler Shelast grabbed a mid-air pass from Mike Batovanja. Shelast dropped the puck to his skates and snapped a shot past goaltender Billy Sauer. Hensick tied the score after circling around the outside of the Huskie zone before wristing a shot by Nolan.
But the tide turned in the Huskies favor in the second, as Michigan Tech jumped out to a two-goal lead midway through the period. On a Michigan power play, Hensick sent the puck back to the point, but no one was there, leading to a two-on-one for the Huskies. Chris Conner’s shot hit the right post, but Brandon Schwartz deposited the puck in the empty side to put the score at 2-1.
Two minutes later, the Huskies went to work on a power play of their own when Michigan was whistled for two minors on the same shift, resulting in a two minute, five-on-three advantage for Michigan Tech. The Huskies penned the Wolverines in their zone for a minute and a half before Lars Helminen’s point shot found its way through traffic past Sauer.
Matt Hunwick started the Michigan comeback with another power-play tally at 12:37 of the second. Hunwick snuck in from the point and beat Nolan with a one-timer off a perfect feed from Brandon Naurato to cut the Michigan Tech lead to 3-2.
Michigan Tech hasn’t won in the third place game since 1999, when the Huskies beat Lake Superior State, 5-4. They haven’t beat Michigan in the GLI since 2000.
“We came close,” Conner said. “We need to learn how to play with the lead. I thought we played two great games this weekend, and we’re a young team, so we’ll bounce back.”