ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The scoreboard said Michigan took an 8-3 decision from Nebraska-Omaha at Yost Ice Arena Friday night, but to hear the Wolverines talk, the scoreboard didn’t tell the real story.
“The game was not an 8-3 game,” stated Michigan coach Red Berenson bluntly.
“This was a 4-3 game in the third period and we got the breaks and they didn’t,” continued Berenson. “We were lucky because the puck went in for us after that. The only thing I liked about our game was that our power play got some offense going but outside of that I thought we were really vulnerable.”
“Tonight, we got the puck bounces,” said junior Michigan captain Chris Summers. “By no means was it an 8-3 game. I thought it should have been a one-or-two-goal difference.”
Aaron Palushaj was Michigan’s biggest offensive weapon with a goal and four assists. Seven other Wolverines had a goal apiece, as Michigan spread the scoring around.
“The puck was bouncing my way,” said Palushaj of his season-high point total. “I finally got a goal which was nice. I really wasn’t doing too much, just moving the puck.”
Michigan netminder Bryan Hogan turned aside 11 shots before he pulled himself from the game due to illness. Billy Sauer mopped up the game’s final seven minutes for Hogan, making four saves of his own. Jeremie Dupont was peppered with 42 shots in the Nebraska-Omaha net.
Dominating play even more than the 15-6 shot differential would suggest, Michigan scored two quick goals early in the first period, then successfully killed off three minor penalties through the latter half of the period.
Summers’ deflected shot from the right point bounced off Robbie Czarnik’s chest behind Dupont at 2:12 on the power play, giving Michigan a 1-0 edge early in the first period.
On an innocent looking play a minute later, Palushaj threw the puck toward the front of the goal from the right half-boards. Carl Hagelin tipped Palushaj’s foray past Dupont to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 2-0 at 3:11.
Both teams bagged two goals in the wide-open second period. The standoff allowed Michigan to skate off with a 4-2 lead after two periods.
The parade of penalties that plagued Michigan late in the first period continued into the second period, directly leading to the first two goals in the second stanza.
While short-handed, sophomore Wolverines’ forward Ben Winnett dipsy-doodled the puck past Dupont with a series of short stickhandling moves, finally slipping the puck between the Mavericks’ netminder’s legs at 3:43.
Skating with a five-on-three advantage, Nebraska Omaha finally converted a power play just as time expired on the first of the two Michigan penalties. Tomas Klempa’s backhand beat Hogan just one second after Wolverine Danny Fardig’s kneeing minor expired at 10:16.
Scoring a power-play marker of their own, Michigan’s David Wohlberg slammed home the rebound of a Steve Kampfer point shot that deflected off the end boards at 13:41.
Rich Purslow took little time pulling the Mavericks back within two, firing a bullet by Hogan from the right circle only 28 seconds later at 14:09.
Joey Martin’s seventh goal of the season tightened things even further, 4-3. just over two minutes into the final frame.
The Wolverines woke up and iced the game over a six minutes span in the third on single goals by Luke Glendening, Palushaj, Brian Lebler, and Brandon Burlon.
The Mavericks’ ability to comeback didn’t surprise Berenson.
“They’re a good team and you knew they were going to break out against somebody and I just don’t want it to be us,” said the Wolverines’ mentor. “You can see they have a lot of guys that are good with the puck, they’re fast, they’re quick and the final score could have been a whole different score if Hogan hadn’t made some key saves.”
Nebraska-Omaha (13-12-7, 8-10-7-3 CCHA) gets an opportunity to break their second-half of the season slide Saturday night in the re-match with Michigan (22-9-0, 16-7-0-0) at Yost.
“I’m a hard coach to play for and I’m a hard coach to please,” said Berenson of the offensive slugfest. “I’m happy we won the game but I’m not happy with the scoring chances we gave up, and I’m not happy with a lot of our efforts in the game. But I am happy the puck went in for us. I’ll never hold a team back from scoring goals but don’t let those goals against pile up. That’s unacceptable.”