BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — A second period goal from the stick of defenseman Chad Langlais proved to be the only offense Michigan needed, as the Wolverines (16-8-0; 10-6-0-0 CCHA) escaped with a win against Bowling Green (8-13-3; 5-10-1-0 CCHA) by a 1-0 score at the BG Ice Arena on Saturday night.
The sophomore’s goal came at 10:15 of the second period on a shot from the point that found its way through traffic and settled into the back of the net, allowing the No. 6 Wolverines to salvage a split on the weekend.
From that point on, the Wolverines had to fight off a feisty Falcons’ club, particularly late in the final period. The Falcons, skating on a power play, pulled the goaltender to create a six-on-four advantage that gave Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer all he could handle.
“It was a really engaging game,” said BG coach Scott Paluch. “There were a lot of twists and turns in the game. Michigan had an advantage for the first two periods with their quickness right out of the gate, but we got that opportunity in the third, and it made it a 20-minute hockey game down one.
“I like the way we played in the third. We killed off three power plays in the third and gave ourselves a chance. We had a couple of good looks at it down the stretch. Over the six periods, it was a very good effort by our team.”
“It was a good gut-check for our team,” added Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Bowling Green shut us out last night. We came in here with a changed lineup, a depleted lineup; we had a lot of players that had to come in and help our team, and they did a good job.
“We need to be in games like this. Obviously, we were not as prepared or as focused as we needed to be last night, but by the end of the weekend, we are. We’re going to look back and say, we lost a game we should have won. On paper, you should win that game, but it doesn’t always happen on the ice.”
“It’s frustrating to lose, but we just finished playing the number six team in the country and came out with a split; that’s something to build off of,” said BG goaltender Jimmy Spratt.
The story of the night was certainly penalty killing and goaltending. A physical game that saw 24 penalties meted out kept both the penalty kill and the goaltenders busy all night. Both teams’ PK was strong; neither team was able to generate consistent chances on the power play.
“The penalty kill was huge,” said Berenson. “We’ve got our top four guys able to do a good job. They’ve got a lot of confidence playing together.
“The power play was frustrating. We had one or two good shots, and that was it. That continues to be a question mark.”
“We did a good job getting a lot of clears on the whole weekend,” said Paluch, explaining the Falcon penalty kill’s ability to shut out Michigan’s power play. “We were able to take their possession time and limit it.”
Spratt nearly equaled his outstanding Friday performance, stopping 38 of the 39 shots he faced. The senior goaltender was tested time and time again by a quick-strike offense averaging 3.35 goals per game. Spratt kept the Falcons in the game, stopping a high number of quality chances early in the game, and then again midway through the third period.
Paluch had high praise for his senior goaltender, who just a week ago was pulled from the game against Ohio State after allowing six goals.
“Jimmy played terrific and gave us a chance right down to the end. You play six periods and give up just one goal, I thought he was very good on the weekend. He had good control. There weren’t many pucks that found danger after the initial save. He was really on for all six periods.”
“That’s what sports is; it’s about bouncing back and proving people wrong,” explained Spratt. “I felt confident this weekend. After a bad game, I kept confidence in my ability and I thought it showed this weekend.”
“He had a great weekend,” said Berenson. “One goal against, you can’t beat that. If they did that every night, they wouldn’t be in last place. That’s hard for us to understand. Their team is a lot better than their record. He gave them every chance. With goalkeeping like that, they’re not going to be in last place.”
Sauer, seeing his first action in net since November 29, turned aside 19 shots in the win. While not tested often, Sauer had to bear down at the end of the game, as the Falcons used a six-on-four advantage in the closing minutes to try to tie the score. The senior found the puck on his doorstep twice late in the game, but was able keep the puck out of his net for his third win of the year.
“Billy Sauer hasn’t played in a month, but it was time to see if he could make a difference,” said Berenson. “He wasn’t tested a lot, but these are tough games to play. This is a tough place to play, and he did everything he needed to do. He didn’t make any mistakes and played a strong game.”
Bryan Hogan, the number one goaltender on Berenson’s roster, sat out tonight’s contest, ending a streak of seven straight starts for the Highland, Michigan sophomore.
“He’s still our number one goalie,” said Berenson of Hogan. “But I think there’s a time where you need to put your other goalie in and challenge your team and challenge him. Billy’s looked good in practice and played hard. He’s not played poorly; he just hasn’t been able to win. Finally, the team scored a goal for him.”
Overall, Paluch was pleased with his team’s effort on the weekend.
“We didn’t have our quickness involved the first two periods [tonight], but we mentally hung in there. We had a real positive, competitive bench that stayed with it, and gave us a chance in the third. That’s a hard team to keep at bay for one goal on the weekend.”
“That’s the identity of our team,” remarked Spratt. “We’re a group of hard-working guys. Against a talented team like that, you have to keep working to give yourself a chance.”