ANN ARBOR, Mich. — T.J. Hensick placed a final validation on his summer decision to return to Michigan for his senior season in the Wolverines’ CCHA quarterfinal series-clinching win over Northern Michigan, 8-3, Saturday night at Yost Arena.
After spurning an opportunity to start his professional career over the summer, the Michigan center capped his senior season with a hat trick and an additional assist in the Wolverines’ 8-3 win over Northern Michigan.
The performance gave Hensick an even 20 goals for the season and raised his point total to 62.
Andrew Cogliano added two goals and two assists to the Michigan scoring explosion.
All three Northern Michigan goals came on the power play.
“He’s a special player,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson of Hensick. “He’s on a mission and he’s making the most of his senior year. There was talk last summer that he might not come back. I think he came back for the right reasons. He knew he wanted to be a better player and he knew he wanted to graduate with his classmates. He wanted to be a student-athlete.”
“It’s a really good feeling,” said Hensick. “I’m happy for the senior class to get that win. I thought it was a team effort and I’m glad to be part of it.”
“It’s indescribable,” continued Hensick about the nature of his final home effort. “To play in your final game here, let alone get a hat trick, is very special. It’s been an unbelievable ride.”
With the win, the Wolverines advance into next weekend’s CCHA championship at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit where they’ll face archrival Michigan State in a semifinal matchup.
“I can’t tell you we were lucky, but I think we got the bounces early in the game again tonight,” said Berenson. “I think the first goal, obviously, was important and we got it. When your best players are your best players, your team has a chance: and when you’re led by your seniors, your team has a better chance. I think that’s what you saw.”
For the second straight night, Michigan carried a three-goal lead into the second period.
The Wolverines exploded offensively for four goals in the first period while Northern Michigan responded with one of its own.
At 3:12 of the first, Hensick grabbed a loose puck in the slot, walked in and picked the upper right corner over Wildcat goaltender Bill Zaniboni’s glove, giving the Wolverines an early lead.
Jack Johnson started the second Michigan scoring play, feeding a pass to Cogliano breaking down the left wing. Cogliano slowed once he entered the offensive zone and feathered a pass back to the trailing Johnson, who one-timed a bomb past Zaniboni at 8:21.
Northern Michigan countered the two early Michigan goals with a marker of its own on a power play at 12:39. Pat Bateman took a pass alone in front of Michigan netminder Billy Sauer from Zach Tarkir at the blueline. Bateman whirled and lifted the puck over Sauer’s extended stick.
Cogliano and Kevin Porter each scored for Michigan as the period wound down, giving the Wolverines a 4-1 lead at period’s end. Cogliano’s backhand goal completed a strong individual effort and Porter’s tally came on a pass from Hensick directly from a faceoff.
Northern Michigan fought back early in the second, notching its second power-play score of the game at 2:33. Zaniboni rifled a pass from his goalmouth to Tim Hartung at the Michigan blueline, and Hartung tipped the puck to Mike Santorelli, who broke in alone on Sauer and potted his 30th goal of the season.
Hensick built the Michigan lead back to three at 8:05 when a Zaniboni rebound landed on his stick and he sent home his 19th goal of the season.
After a Wildcat goaltending change to freshman Brian Stewart, Wolverine linemates Cogliano and Chad Kolarik alternated setting each other up for goals to extend the Michigan lead to 7-2 after two periods.
The teams traded third-period goals, Hensick with his hat trick and Ray Kaunisto with the third Wildcat power-play tally.