ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Northern Michigan junior center Mike Santorelli made it a complete milestone weekend at Yost Arena Saturday night with both of his team’s goals in a 2-1 win over Michigan.
Only one night after Michigan coach Red Berenson racked up his 600th career coaching victory against the Wildcats, Santorelli bagged a couple of milestone markers himself.
Santorelli, a Nashville Predator draftee, reached the 50-goal mark for his career with his first goal and brought his season total to an even 20 with his second.
Northern Michigan head coach Walt Kyle was quick to point out how much Santorelli has meant to the team’s offensive output this season.
“Santorelli’s a helluva player, a very good player,” said Kyle. “He’s kind of an unsung guy. A lot of people don’t know who he is around the league. To me, every night we play, he’s one of the best players on the ice and he continues to be our catalyst offensively.”
Even with the two milestones he achieved, Santorelli was more focused on what his contributions meant to the team. The Wildcats came into the game having lost nine of their previous 10 contests.
“This is a pretty big win. We’ve got to build on this,” said Santorelli. “We’ve got to try to change our season around. We have to build an identity as a team to succeed.”
“I think we just stuck to our systems and played well,” continued Santorelli, a Burnaby, British Columbia, native. “We kept within ourselves. Each player on the team played their role and I think that’s why we succeeded. It feels good to get the win after we’ve had a couple of bad months. It just feels good to get a win down here.”
Wildcat senior goaltender Bill Zaniboni contributed to the Northern Michigan cause by turning back 36 Michigan shots and carrying a shutout bid nearly all the way through the third period.
Andrew Cogliano’s goal with only seven seconds left in the game gave the Wolverines just a glimmer of hope and spoiled Zaniboni’s shot at the whitewash.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about it,” said Zaniboni of the potential shutout. “I was just making sure there wasn’t enough time for them to get another good scoring chance. The main thing right now at this point in the season is to make sure we get the wins and see if we can get on a roll as a team.”
Zaniboni echoed Santorelli’s thoughts on the Wildcat victory.
“It feels great,” said the Wildcat goaltender. “We had a great team effort tonight. I thought we took care of our defensive zone a lot better than we did last night. That was one of the key aspects of tonight’s game. We took advantage of some of our opportunities in the offensive zone and we battled all night long. Every one stayed positive and we had a lot of faith inside the locker room that we could do it.”
“The execution determines the final outcome,” said a disappointed Berenson. “We are not executing. We are not playing with enough desperation. We weren’t playing with a sense of urgency.”
“The big scoring chances favored them,” continued the Michigan head coach. “Even in the first period, we might have led them 13-4 in shots, but they had the best chances. Give Northern credit; they came back and played a hard, strong game and we did not.”
Although they had to kill off three minor penalties and were out shot 13-4, the Wildcats not only escaped the first period, they left the ice after twenty minutes with a 1-0 lead.
Northern Michigan right wing Tim Hartung snared a loose puck at the red line and flipped it to Santorelli, who broke in alone and beat Michigan netminder Billy Sauer high on the glove side at 15:17.
Buoyed by its successful first period, Northern Michigan played the second period with significantly more jump than the Wolverines and it paid off in the period’s only goal.
Santorelli was the marksman and Hartung the set up man again for the Wildcats as they doubled their lead to 2-0.
Hartung dropped the puck back to a trailing Santorelli who broke down the slot toward Sauer and solved the Michigan goaltender high on the stick side at 11:03.
“Tim Hartung’s a great passer,” said Santorelli It’s good to have him back in the lineup. He’s just back from injury. It’s a pleasure to play with a guy like that.”
The loss drops the Wolverines back to fourth in the CCHA standings behind Michigan State while the victory moves Northern Michigan into a ninth-place tie with Alaska.
The Wildcats (9-14-2, 6-11-1 CCHA) travel back to Marquette to host Bowling Green next Friday and Saturday in their next set of CCHA games while the Wolverines (15-9-0, 10-6-0 CCHA) make the long trip to Fairbanks, visiting Alaska for a weekend pair.