ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Midway through the third period, you had to believe every Michigan fan in Yost Ice Arena was thinking: “not again.”
Ferris State’s Greg Rallo sent an outlet pass to Mark Bomersback, who split three Wolverines before deking Noah Ruden and sending the puck five-hole. Bomersback’s goal cut Michigan’s lead to 5-3.
Two weeks ago, Bomersback started a third-period rally that erased a Wolverine three-goal lead en route to a 4-3 Bulldog victory.
“The last game here at Yost and earlier in the year, coming back from three goals down against Western, gave us confidence in the third period that we could do it again,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said.
The pattern was set to repeat. Less than a minute after Bomersback’s goal, Dan Riedel picked up a loose rebound in front of Ruden, and shoved the puck by the netminder’s left arm to draw the Bulldogs within one.
There was just under 10 minutes left in the period – plenty of time for Ferris State to tie the game at five. And with Michigan on its heels, it seemed inevitable.
“It’s frustrating for the guys on the bench, but it’s not just the guys on the ice because then you get your turn and go out and do the same thing,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We were trying to win the period, and that was our goal — to win the period. We couldn’t get out of our zone.”
But unlike two Fridays ago, the Wolverines didn’t buckle under the pressure, with two freshmen combining for an insurance goal. Andrew Cogliano won a battle deep along the boards, and fed Travis Turnbull, who cycled out front and potted Michigan’s sixth tally.
“Once he scored it was kind of a relief,” Michigan captain Andrew Ebbett said. “We just had to make sure we finished off the game. But we had to have good confidence to be able to handle the pressure and get the win.”
With Friday’s victory, Michigan is just one win away from heading to Joe Louis Arena next week to play in the CCHA semifinals. The 6-4 win also broke a four-game winless streak for the Wolverines, who hadn’t won since Feb. 11 against Lake Superior State.
“I feel fortunate we won the game,” Berenson said. “We got through it, and hopefully we’ll be a better team tomorrow night, but that wasn’t good enough.”
Ferris State had trouble finding rhythm after Michigan came out jumping in the opening minutes. T.J. Hensick put the Wolverines on the board eight minutes into the contest, and Ebbett added another a minute later. With Brandon Kaleniecki providing traffic in front of Mitch O’Keefe, Ebbett unleashed a slapshot from the high slot that found its way beneath a jumping Kaleniecki and past the Bulldog netminder.
Matt Verdone temporarily broke the Wolverine momentum minutes later, cutting wide along the left boards and sending a tumbling puck past Ruden’s glove at 12:19.
Michigan stormed on in the second period, grabbing three more goals, while Ferris State spent eight minutes of the period in the penalty box.
“The story of the game was the series of penalties we took in the first half of the second period,” Daniels said. “I had to use our best offensive players, especially Mark Bomersback, on the penalty kill, and that tired them out.”
In turn, Berenson’s best offensive talent saw plenty of ice time. Ebbett notched his second of the night off a patient passing play by Cogliano seven minutes into the period. On a power play midway through the period, Kaleniecki collected a Matt Hunwick rebound, and deposited the puck in the empty side before O’Keefe had a chance to react. Ebbett capped a three-point night, fighting off a defender along the boards and finding Kevin Porter crashing the net. Porter one-timed the pass by O’Keefe to build Michigan’s lead to 4-1 at 14:17.
Eric Vesely managed the Bulldogs’ only tally in the middle frame before Ferris State attempted the comeback in the third period.
Michigan senior goaltender Ruden made 28 saves in his playoff debut. The teams face off again at Yost tomorrow in the second game of a best-of-three series, when Michigan will attempt to sweep its first-round playoff series for the 14th time in its last 17 tries.