ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan snapped off three quick goals, two on the power play, in the first twelve minutes of the game and then just barely held on to squelch a furious Niagara comeback in the Wolverines’ 3-2 victory over the Purple Eagles Thursday night at Yost Ice Arena .
After both fought the puck early, Michigan netminder Bryan Hogan and Niagara goaltender Adam Avramenko conducted a clinic in goal through the furious final period, posting a combined 30 saves in the period, 16 for Hogan and 14 by Avramenko.
“He didn’t have the greatest start,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder of his junior goalie, Avramenko. “But for him to settle in, I think he showed a lot of maturity. He held us in there on a couple of breakaway saves in the second. He at least gave us a chance to come back.
“Our third period has been our worst period, the trend we were setting in the first three games. To come out and play as well as we did in the third period, we had some big-time body checks and we outshot them. But, unfortunately, we’re going to have to learn from this. We need to stay out of the box. We had no rhythm going at all for 40 minutes because we were in penalty trouble.”
“We knew it would be a tough game even though we got off to what you might call a false start with those two power play goals,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “They had pressure on us all night. There wasn’t much of a difference between the two teams. I thought Hogan was the difference at one point, and yet we had a couple good chances, too.”
Niagara manged to kill off six Michigan power plays after they were victimized early by Michigan’s two first attempts on the power play. Michigan’s penalty kill unit was successful on all four Niagara power plays.
At the start, Michigan raced off to a 3-0 first period lead, the first two on the power play, only to have Niagara beat Hogan late in the period for a 3-1 first stanza Wolverine lead.
Freshman A.J.Treais scored his first career goal in a two-man game with Robbie Czarnik at 1:47 on the power play. Treais carried the puck into the Niagara zone and dished to his left to Czarnik streaking down the wing. Treais deflected Czarnik’s return feed to the slot past Avramenko.
Less than two minutes later, the Wolverines struck again on the power play. At 3:28, Matt Rust faked a shot from the right circle and passed down low to Hagelin, who flipped the puck over Avramenko on a sharp angle.
Michigan increased their lead to three at 11:38 when Czarnik finished off a pretty three-way passing play from Steve Kampfer and Brian Lebler with what proved to be the game-winner.
At 15:10, Ryan Olidis snatched a rebound from Hogan off a Tyler Gotto shot, shifted the puck to his backhand as he crossed in front of the net and lifted it by Hogan.
Niagara killed off four Michigan penalties in the second period and then capitalized in the final minute to pull within one goal, 3-2, after two periods.
Maintaining sustained pressure in the Wolverines’ zone, the Purple Eagles finally converted when Paul Zanette snapped Bryan Haczyk’s centering pass from the right corner by Hogan with only 46.5 seconds left in the period.
“We started to play too hard,” said Hagelin of Michigan’s offense. “We didn’t do the easy stuff. We tried to take guys one-on-one and make passes behind our net. You aren’t going to win a lot of games playing like that. We got lucky tonight, and Hogan helped us out a lot.”
“I think we’ll play a lot better in our next game,” offered Berenson. “I really do. I think that this game was a measurement of where we are. We all know we can play better. I think that we needed this game. We can practice so long, but it’s much different, quicker and more physical in a game.”
The Wolverines had a full two weeks to prep for the Niagara game, taking off a full weekend after mailing the long trek to Alaska for a season-opening tournament on October 9-10. Michigan split the Alaska weekend games, coming back to best Alaska Anchorage, 6-1, after suffering a shutout at the hands of Alaska in their first tilt of the season, 2-0.
Niagara entered the contest with Michigan winless after an opening night tie with Colgate followed by two nail-biting 4-3 losses to Clarkson and St.Lawrence. Even with a record of 0-3-1, the Purple Eagles have only been outscored 15 goals to 12 on the season.
Michigan (2-1-0) takes an evening off, as they travel to Boston for a Saturday night matchup with Boston University. Niagara (0-3-1) gets the rest of the weekend off before traveling to Colgate on Halloween night.