KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Michigan Wolverines used a three-goal second period in a come-from-behind effort to squeak by the Western Michigan Broncos, 6-5, Saturday night at Lawson Ice Arena.
With a crowd of 3,600 on hand for an intense, physical game, the Wolverines (12-5 overall, 8-3 CCHA) used two second-period power-play goals and a shorthander to move past the Broncos.
“I like the way we came from behind tonight,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “We were down two goals in that second period, and the power play really gave us a spark and got us back in the game. Then it was anybody’s game to win.”
Down 3-1 and facing a Bronco power play, senior center T.J. Hensick broke free into the Bronco zone and found right winger David Rohlfs for the second Wolverine goal of the night at the 15.02 mark.
Just over a minute later, on a Western penalty, sophomore center Andrew Cogliano took the pass from Hensick on the left wing, just shy of the blueline, and fired a slapshot past reaching WMU freshman goalie Riley Gill to even the score at 3.
The third Wolverine goal of the period came off the stick of Kevin Porter with just 45 seconds remaining, giving Michigan a one-goal advantage heading into the third period. Hensick added his third of four assists on that goal, along with one for Chad Kolarik.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game by both teams tonight,” said WMU coach Jim Culhane. “It was pretty fitting that it was a one-goal game based upon the physicality and emotion. … For us, we are obviously disappointed in the outcome, but very proud of our effort.”
“I think emotions run high in this type of atmosphere,” said Mark Letestu, WMU freshman center. “When you get this many people in the building, you get excited and it’s the effort and consistency that needs to be there for us as we need to learn how to keep our emotions in check to play with these contending teams.”
Michigan used an early WMU penalty in the first period to help notch the first goal of the game at the 2:49 mark, scored by freshman Brian Lebler with the assists going to Brandon Naurato and senior captain Matt Hunwick.
Less than a minute later, however, the Broncos evened the score at 1 on a Patrick Galivan unassisted goal. Galivan, who took the puck from a Michigan defender, chipped the puck past Wolverine goalie Steve Jakiel, earning his first career road start in Maize and Blue.
Berenson and his coaching staff made the move to play the freshman Jakiel Saturday, giving sophomore Billy Sauer a game off.
“The last two games he [Sauer] has just given up too many goals against,” the Wolverine coach said. “Whether he’s tired or just wasn’t sharp, when you give up 13 goals in two games, you have to look for new ways to improve. Jakiel hadn’t played and we had to see if he could help this team, and I think he did that tonight.”
After scoring six goals on Sauer Friday night, the Broncos weren’t upset that they didn’t see him in goal Saturday.
“We really don’t focus much on our opponent that much,” Culhane said. “When we look at them, we look for tendencies. We put a lot of responsibility on ourselves and want to focus on the things we need to do.”
Leading 2-1 to begin that second period, the Broncos were able to move to a two-goal advantage on a power play goal by Jason Moul chipping in his first goal of the season on a back-handed wrap around goal past an outreached Jakiel. Co-captain Jeff LoVecchio and Nathan Ansell added the assists.
In a third period, that began with a 4-3 Wolverine advantage, Jeff Pierce was able to even the score with his fifth goal of the season at the 7:31 mark, as Tyler Ludwig and Letestu assisted on the goal.
Not wasting anytime to take the lead again, Naurato was able to mark his second point of the night on the go-ahead goal on a pass from Hensick from left to right for his fourth assist on the night.
Coming right back in the zone, after a couple of missed scoring opportunities for the Broncos, Michigan was able to go up 6-4 on Cogliano’s second goal of the game and fifth in this weekend series.
“I think we showed a lot of resiliency tonight,” Culhane said. “I thought we battled tremendously all night long. We showed a lot of courage being down one goal going into the third and then when we were down two goals in the third, we didn’t stop battling.”
In the final period, the Wolverines were able to piece their lineup together with two players, Jack Johnson and Jason Dest, both going down with injuries.
“It was old time hockey in the period,” Berenson said. One good thing was that we had Tim Cook in the lineup and also Rohlfs, which we could have moved back to defense.”
On the final goal of the night, LoVecchio was able to find a charging Letestu down the right slot, as he was able to put it past Jakiel in the two-hole. Pierce was also given an assist.
Not surprised by the type of game between the two in-state rivals Culhane agreed that the home ice proved to be a big difference in the game and was a great representation of the university.
“Anytime we play at home and have the energy and electricity we had tonight, we have a lot to be proud of here at Western,” he said. “It was a tremendous crowd tonight, which was entertained to a very competitive, hard fought battle between two good teams.”
The Broncos will enjoy a break next weekend because of finals week, but then will travel to take on Wayne State on Dec. 16. Michigan, however will take on Notre Dame next weekend in a home and home series, starting on Dec. 8 in Ann Arbor and concluding in South Bend on Dec.10.
“We have to re-focus on a major opponent next week with Notre Dame,” Berenson said. “We have this week to patch our lineup together, and put our best foot forward this Friday night.”