ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Fittingly, a power-play goal finally determined the winner in overtime Friday night as Michigan topped Northeastern, 4-3, at Yost Arena.
Two minutes into the extra session, Michigan forward Kevin Porter deflected Jack Johnson’s blast from the right point past Northeastern freshman goaltender Brad Thiessen to give the sixth-ranked Wolverines a come-from-behind win over the Huskies.
In a penalty-filled affair — with 16 two-minute minors called in the first two periods alone — all but one of the game’s goals were of the power-play variety.
“If you get the courage to stand in front of Jack Johnson’s shot, you get rewarded,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson of Porter’s overtime winner.
“It’s not fun,” said Porter of his position in front of Johnson’s shot. “At practice, I’m told to get out of the way. In the game, you just have to stand there, close your eyes and put your stick on the ice. I knew it was coming. I threw my stick on the ice and just tried to position myself better so the goalie couldn’t see.”
“We scored three power-play goals, but still you’ve got to get an even-strength goal in 60 minutes of hockey if you expect to win,” said Northeastern coach Greg Cronin.
“After we sat around for the first five minutes and watched Michigan play hockey, we woke up. But, we allowed too many odd-man rushes and took the penalty late in the (third) period.”
“We played a very good road game against Boston University and should have had a better fate,” Cronin continued. “I did not like the way we played tonight. It’s a simple as that.”
The two teams traded power-play goals in the first period.
Four straight minutes of sustained offensive pressure from the opening faceoff culminated in Wolverine David Rohlfs’ fourth goal of the young season. Hensick flipped a soft pass to Rohlfs streaking in on the right side. Rohlfs picked the upper corner of the net over Thiessen’s outstretched glove hand.
A succession of penalties finally cost the Wolverines the lead late in the period. With Wolverine defenseman Johnson and Hensick both in the penalty box, the Huskies converted on a slick three-way passing play.
Senior Mike Morris started the play with a pass to freshman Kyle Kraemer, who whipped a crisp pass cross-ice to senior defenseman Steve Birnstill. Birnstill fired the puck from the top of the right circle into the open left side of the net past Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer to tie the game at 1-1.
Before the scoreless third period, Wolverine Chad Kolarik’s goal, on a pass from behind the net from sophomore Andrew Cogliano with only four seconds left in the second period, was a rarity in this game: an even-strength goal. The goal sent the two teams to the second intermission tied, 3-3.
Michigan had opened the scoring in the second period at 4:02 on a power-play effort from senior T.J. Hensick and Porter. Hensick passed from behind the goal line to Porter, who snapped the puck into the open side of the Husky net.
Sandwiched between the two Michigan book-end goals were two power-play goals by Northeastern center Mike Morris.
“Morris is an All-American caliber player,” said Cronin. “I’ve said all along it’s just a matter of time until he gets comfortable.”
On the first at 7:04, Morris and a Michigan defender both slapped at the puck just to the right of Michigan netminder Sauer. The puck shot straight over Sauer’s shoulder to knot the game at 2-2.
Morris connected less than two minutes later, with the Huskies’ second conversion of the game while holding a five-on-three advantage, to take a 3-2 lead. His shot from the high slot eluded Sauer to give Northeastern its first lead of the game.
Sauer’s save on a clear breakaway from center ice by Northeastern forward Ryan Ginand, though, with eight minutes left in the period prevented the Huskies from making it a two-goal gap.
“We were down a goal and Billy had to make that save,” said Berenson. “If he didn’t, it could have been a different game. There were a lot of turning points in the game and that was one of them. I thought Billy was solid and his play in the second period gave us a chance.”
The next contest for both Michigan (4-1-0, 1-1-0 CCHA) and Northeastern (1-3-1, 0-2-1 Hockey East) will be Saturday night, right back at Yost Arena in the second game of the weekend series.
The Michigan-Northeastern all-time games-played total will expand by 50%, from four to six games with the Huskies’ weekend trip, their first ever, to Ann Arbor’s Yost Arena. Prior to Northeastern’s early-season victory over the Wolverines two seasons ago in the Lefty McFadden Invitational tournament, all three other meetings between the two schools came in holiday tournaments in Boston in the late ’50s and early ’60s.
His first career goal and point in a game-tying effort against Vermont on October 14 earned Northeastern defenseman David Strathman Hockey East’s Rookie of the Week award.
Michigan sits atop the NCAA in goals per game with a 5.50 mark coming into this weekend’s games. The Wolverines will be looking to improve their goals-against average of 3.50, though, which places them well down the line in 30th position.