ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For two periods, it seemed No. 7 Michigan and Lake Superior State were destined to tie.
Neither team dominated, neither goalie was making spectacular saves. But as the minutes clocked down in the third period, the hints that the Lakers could break a 10-game losing streak against the Wolverines kept coming.
“We played aggressive right to the end,” Lake Superior State coach Jim Roque said. “We didn’t sit back – we went for it.”
With just five minutes left in the third, Laker goaltender Jeff Jakaitis stopped a point-blank opportunity from Kevin Porter. Just three minutes later, it looked as if Michigan’s Chad Kolarik would have a clear-cut breakaway, but a Laker defenseman blindsided him before he had the chance.
Knotted 2-2, the teams went to overtime. With two minutes left in the extra frame, the Wolverines misplayed the puck in neutral ice. Steve McJannet rushed into the zone and ripped a shot at Noah Ruden. The Michigan netminder got only a piece of it, as the puck flipped over his glove and into the net, sending the entire Laker bench onto the ice in jubilation at Yost Ice Arena.
“I keep thinking about that last goal,” Ruden said. “I should have had it, it went off my glove.”
The win tightens an already close CCHA race, moving fourth-place Lake Superior State just one point behind third-place Michigan going into tomorrow night’s rematch.
“It all comes down to tomorrow night – the whole weekend,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “I’m not as concerned at this point about tonight’s game. It’s over and it’s disappointing absolutely, but tomorrow night is the weekend.”
The game seemed to slow to a crawl at times, but both teams managed to score twice in the opening 40 minutes.
Just six minutes into the game, McJannet jammed the puck past Ruden, who was unable to cover up the puck.
Jason Dest put Michigan on the board four minutes later. From the left point, Dest wheeled a shot that sailed through traffic and by Jakaitis.
Misfortune gave Michigan its next chance. At the point, Matt Wheeler’s stick broke in half, sending the Wolverines down the ice three-on-two. Porter sent the puck cross-ice to T.J. Hensick, who fired into the top corner past Jakaitis.
Jakaitis held the narrow 2-1 margin early in the second, enabling the Lakers to tie the game. Seven minutes into the period, a punk clanked off the post behind Jakaitis, but he fell backwards on it to cover up. He also made two saves in sequence on Porter midway through the second. He stopped 35 shots on the night.
“To be honest, he didn’t make unbelievable saves tonight,” Roque said. “But he made the saves when he had to.”
Ruden also turned aside 35 shots.
With the Lakers picking up momentum as the period wore on, it seemed the tying goal was inevitable. Matt Hunwick went to check Troy Schwab along the right boards, but Schwab feathered the puck across the zone to Trent Campbell streaking down the left wing. Campbell broke free of the defenseman Jason Dest and deked around Ruden’s left pad to even the game at two.
“(The game) is disappointing in every aspect,” Hensick said. “We had them on the ropes in the first period 2-1, but then we let down. We need to refocus tomorrow night. Tomorrow is a must win game for us.”
It was Michigan’s fifth loss at Yost Ice Arena, the most losses since 2001-02 when it went 14-6-2 at home.