ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Thirty-four days after they last played on Yost Arena ice, Michigan’s seniors led the Wolverines to a 4-1 victory over Northern Michigan in the opening game of their CCHA quarterfinal series Friday night.
Seniors Matt Hunwick and David Rohlfs scored first-period goals for the Wolverines, and fellow senior T.J. Hensick added two assists in the Michigan victory. Freshman Chris Summers added the other Michigan opening-stanza tally.
“This is senior time of year,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “They know they do not have many games left. They obviously want to have the best finish. You can see it in Rohlfs like you can see it in Hunwick and the rest of the seniors. I think we’re led by the right people.”
“It is in the back of our minds that we only have a couple of games left,” said Hensick.
“We had not played here in a while. As a senior, we are looking forward to our final game this weekend. It is going to be exciting and emotional at the same time.”
The Wolverines’ 3-0 lead after one period was all they could muster until Andrew Cogliano potted an empty-net marker 51 seconds before the final buzzer.
Nick Sirota scored the Wildcats’ only goal early in the second period.
After his stellar performance against Ohio State in the Wildcats’ opening-round series against Ohio State, freshman netminder Brian Stewart was called upon again by Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle.
Stewart turned away 34 Wolverine shots in the contest, including numerous saves while Michigan tried to put the game away on several power-play opportunities in both the second and third periods.
“I thought he played fine,” said Kyle. “They (Michigan) made the one goal from a bad angle. It was something he should have had, but other than that, he played fine.”
Hunwick’s early goal set the tone for the Wolverines.
“You always have to worry about how sharp you will be when you come out for a game,” said Hunwick. “I think it gives us confidence when we get on the board early. We got to play with the lead the whole game, which is beneficial.”
Northern Michigan faces exactly the same situation from which it battled back last weekend in its series victory over Ohio State. The Wildcats need two straight road wins against the Wolverines to keep their season alive and advance to the CCHA semifinals.
“We’re going to make some adjustments and I’m sure Red will make some adjustments down the hall,” said Kyle. “We gave up a bad goal tonight and we gave up an empty-net goal tonight. Other than that, we weren’t that far off. It was a lot tougher to play here than it was in Columbus because of the crowd.”
“We didn’t play our best game,” said Berenson. “We need to play better tomorrow because Northern will be better tomorrow. Northern knows that their season is on the line again, but they are used to that after last weekend. It will be a battle tomorrow.”