ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The return of two seniors, defenseman Mark Mitera and goaltender Billy Sauer, to the starring roles they formerly held paced Michigan to a 4-0 win over Ferris State Saturday night at Yost Ice Arena, fittingly on Michigans annual Senior Night.
Mitera, out since the season opener in October with a torn ACL knee ligament, supplied a goal and an assist in his second game back since the early season injury.
I didnt have a great goal, Mitera apologized. I just kind of threw it in the net. I wasnt really expecting that. Just to get back –my timetable was to get back for this game — it feels great that we could pull it together.
It is a great feeling after the game to be able to pull it out especially as one of our last games at Yost, continued Mitera. It was definitely something special
Sauer, who lost his starting goaltending position to sophomore Bryan Hogan midway through the season, stopped 14 Ferris State shots, earning a shutout in his final regular season appearance on Yost Arena ice.
It was great for all the seniors, said Sauer. I think we all had a great night. It was just really special to get out there and have a good senior night, especially since we have seen bad ones in the past.
Ferris State goaltender Taylor Nelson turned aside 32 Michigan shots.
To have Billy Sauer come in and get a shutout, that was good for our team, said Michigan Head Coach Red Berenson.
Mitera scored a goal, added Berenson with a wry smile. It usually takes him all year to score a goal when he is playing, let alone when he is injured.
Goals were precious tonight. We were fortunate to get the bounces on the goals. It was a close game all the way
The win allowed the Wolverines to keep pace with the Miami RedHawks for second place in the CCHA standings with 40 points. Michigan, however, will assume the higher second seed in the conference playoffs due to their 20 conference wins compared to Miamis 17.
The loss drops Ferris State (12-17-7, 9-14-5-2 CCHA) to ninth in the CCHA standings and puts the Bulldogs on the road in the first CCHA playoff round against Nebraska-Omaha next weekend.
Stellar penalty-killing allowed Michigan to hold Ferris State off the scoreboard until they finally kick-started their offense into gear in the second period with three goals. The Wolverines held the Bulldogs to only one shot on goal during the six power play attempts by Ferris State.
After a lackluster opening period, the second period revved up to a level of spirited play that saw the Wolverines jump to a commanding 3-0 lead. The period concluded with a collision between Michigan defenseman Chad Langlais and Nelson as they traded ends heading off for intermission. The resulting melee included four game misconducts and 90 penalty minutes.
The Wolverines wasted little time in denting the scoreboard in the middle stanza when Robbie Czarnik completed a pretty three-way passing play at 2:06 to open the scoring. Travis Turnbulls cross-ice pass to senior captain Mitera was returned back cross-ice to Czarnik who easily hit the open net.
The Wolverines added their final two goals late in the period.
At 15:50, Wolverine blueliner Chris Summers slung a shot from the top of the left circle that Matt Rust, at Nelsens doorstep, deflected high over the Bulldog netminders glove into the top corner of the net.
Completing both the periods scoring and a remarkable comeback from the knee surgery earlier in the season, Mitera potted his first goal of the campaign at 17:00, finding the net on a shot from the left point through a maze of players.
Mitera, out since the season opener in October with a torn ACL knee ligament, was playing in his second game since the early season injury.
Senior forward Brandon Naurato finished the games scoring at 19:22 of the third period, one-timing Brandon Burlons power-play feed by Nelson.
Michigan (26-10-0, 20-8-0-0 CCHA) takes next weekend off, enjoying the first-round CCHA playoff bye they earned with their top-four regular season finish. The Wolverines await a victor from the first round of those playoffs for a best-of-three CCHA quarterfinal home series at Yost starting on Friday, March 13.
It was a good year, summarized Berenson. We got 20 wins in the league this year and that is what we had last year and our team was supposedly a top team last year. This team matched that even though we were in seventh place around Christmas.