ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A glance at the scoreboard at Yost Ice Arena after 52 minutes Friday night showed Michigan and St. Lawrence deadlocked at 3-3 and having each taken 32 shots on goal.
The Saints had played second-ranked Wolverines dead even for those 52 minutes and five more before Michigan senior forward Tim Miller launched the puck past Saint netminder Alex Petizian at 17:27 of the third period allowing his Wolverines to escape with a 4-3 win in the season opening game for both teams.
“Everybody’s capable of scoring, they just need the right chance,” Berenson said. “I thought (Chad) Langlais was outstanding on defense tonight, not just because he scored, but the way he defended, the way he ran our power play. He had just a great game.
And Timmy Miller went hard to the net on rebound. It was a harmless shot by (Travis) Turnbull, but a good effort getting to the net on a loose puck. You don’t always score on your best chances. Miller had a breakaway in the second period, really a nice play, and walked right in. This one went in.”
The goal was Miller’s fourth career game winner. Miller tallied four goals last season, but all were at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, not at the Wolverines’ home rink at Yost. The goal was his first at Yost since January 12, 2007, also a game winner.
“We practice that play every day, just getting the shot from a rebound on the far pad,” said Miller. “Turnbull did it, and I crashed the net. The rebound was right there, so I buried it.”
The Wolverines squandered nine power play chances in the contest, often controlling play on the perimeter, but rarely threatening Petizian while holding the man advantage.
It’s a work in progress,” Berenson said of the power play. “We did have some good shots, but we have to get better. It has to be more of a factor. You get that many power plays, you want to capitalize.”
Petizian turned aside 31 shots while Michigan’s Billy Sauer blocked 28.
Michigan offensively dominated most of the initial half of the first period only to see the Saints turn two Wolverine miscues into quick goals.
Playing four-on-four, St. Lawrence senior forward Brock McBride took an innocent-looking shot from the left circle. Sauer bobbled the puck giving up a juicy rebound that Michigan native Kevin Dergillio swept by the Michigan netminder at 9:33.
Brandon Bollig converted Augie DiMarzo’s cross-ice pass after a give-away by Michigan captain Mark Mitera at 13:23 to put the Saints up 2-0.
Just 29 seconds later, the Michigan hit the score sheet with Ben Winnett solving Petizian off a rebound.
The Wolverines knotted the score late in the period on a nifty two man passing game between Carl Hagelin and Aaron Palushaj. Palushaj carried the puck deep into the right corner and found Hagelin open in front of the net. Hagelin took Palushaj’s pass, shifted the puck to his backhand and beat Petizian between his legs at 18:25.
Mitera failed to return for the second period after suffering a late first period left knee injury. Junior Chris Summers dropped back from his spot on left wing to his natural position on the blue line to fill in for the injured Wolverine captain.
“Mitera is getting an MRI currently on his left knee,” said Berenson after the game. “We do not know anything for sure, but we can tell that it is going to be serious.”
The two teams traded second period goals with Michigan striking first, only to be tied just over a minute later by the Saints.
Wolverine sophomore Matt Rust started the play by mesmerizing two St. Lawrence defenders with his puck handling along the right half-boards with the teams playing four-on-four. Chad Langlais slipped in from his spot on the left point and one-timed Rust’s cross-ice pass to give the Wolverines the lead, 3-2, temporarily at 12:45 of the second period.
St. Lawrence struck back at 13:52 on the power play. Saint senior Captain Shawn Fensell’s shot from the right point was blocked along the ice by a screened Sauer. Mike McKenzie pounced on the rebound and tossed it behind the Wolverine goaltender to equal Michigan, 3-3.
Miller’s late third period goal was the only tally of the final stanza.
“It’s disappointing,” said St. Lawrence Head Coach Joe Marsh of the close loss. “You can look at moral victories all you want. We’ve got to start believing that we belong in buildings like this. I’m always proud of them, but we have to raise the bar for ourselves. We were in the tournament two years ago. I think we have to hold ourselves to a little higher standard.”
Michigan and St. Lawrence renew the battle Saturday night at Yost Arena in the finale of the two game series.