ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan coach Red Berenson is nearly as accurate a prophet is he is legendary as a coach.
After Michigan’s Friday night 6-2 win over Lake Superior State, Berenson warned that the difference between the two teams was minuscule and that Lake Superior has taken points out of nearly every weekend they’ve played this season.
Berenson was nearly correct in his warning.
The fourth-ranked Wolverines barely edged Lake Superior, 2-1, Saturday night at Yost Ice Arena, sweeping the weekend two-game set and holding the Lakers pointless for the weekend, only the second such occurrence this season.
Brian Lebler’s second period goal was the eventual game winner. Carl Hagelin also scored for Michigan and Zac MacVoy recorded the Lakers’ only goal.
Both goaltenders performed heroically. Lake Superior’s Pat Inglis bounced back from allowing six Michigan goals on Friday, stopping all but two of the Wolverine’s 31 shots. Michigan netminder Bryan Hogan held his team in the game, turning aside 26 of his 27 save opportunities.
“It was an ugly win, but we got through it,” said Berenson. “It was one of those games where we weren’t in sync and we just had to battle the whole way. They were a tough team; a good team. Bryan Hogan had to make some big saves. Our penalty killing hung in there.
“There is not much to choose between the teams and emotionally they came out really hard.”
The Lakers took a cue from the Wolverines’ late first period heroics on Friday night, notching a last-minute goal, just as Michigan had done the previous night.
MacVoy, who started his college career as a freshman at Michigan before eventually transferring to Lake Superior, burned his former team at 19:14, potting a rebound of a deflected shot for the game’s first goal.
Michigan was quick to answer MacVoy. At 19:32, Hagelin grabbed a loose puck in the Lakers’ zone, made a wide circle out toward the blue line and beat Inglis from long range to knot the score, 1-1.
“Matt Rust took a shot and the puck came along the boards,” described Hagelin, “I was just trying to pivot off my guy. I came up toward the other defenseman and tried to make it past him. There was an open lane, so I just went toward the net, took a shot and it went in.”
The tight-checking second period yielded few offensive chances and only one goal.
Lebler earned his fourth goal of the season at 6:25 of the middle stanza. Aaron Palushaj’s shot from the center edge of the right circle rebounded off Inglis’ stick right to a wide-open Lebler, who easily directed the puck into the open net.
The game’s outcome remained in doubt through most of the scoreless third period until the Lakers took two separate minor penalties in the final five minutes of play, wiping out their chances of mounting a game-equaling rally.
The Michigan win moves them into sole possession of third place in the CCHA, two points clear of Alaska. The loss hinders the Lakers chase of Northern Michigan for first round playoff home-ice advantage.
“The good thing is that we came from behind in both (Friday and Saturday) these games,” noted Berenson.
Michigan (21-9-0, 15-7-0-0 CCHA) will spend the week preparing to host Nebraska-Omaha in a two-game set next weekend. Lake Superior (9-13-8, 6-10-6-1) travels back home to the Sault to host Miami for a pair of games next weekend.