ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan took the last ride on the goal-scoring seesaw Saturday night at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor.
In a back and forth affair, Michigan countered two Northern Michigan third-period goals early in the period with two of its own to eke out a 5-4 win over the Wildcats.
Each team fought back from behind twice in the contest, which was decided in a wild third period.
Northern Michigan entered the third period trailing 3-2, but took a 4-3 lead only five minutes into the final period when Erik Gustafsson scored from the high slot at 3:32 and Jared Brown banked the puck between Michigan goaltender Bryan Hogan’s legs from a nearly impossible angle at 4:46.
Michigan fought right back with two quick goals of its own by defensemen Chad Langlais and Greg Pateryn to take the lead for good.
On a power play, Brian Lebler made a cross-ice pass right in front of the net to Langlais, who one-timed the pass into the open Wildcats’ net at 8:42 to tie the game, 4-4.
Exactly one minute later at 9:42, Pateryn carried the puck deep into the right corner and cut sharply toward the net. With a nifty quick-handed shift of the puck from forehand to backhand, Pateryn surprised Stewart with a quick shot. The game-winner was Pateryn’s career first.
Northern Michigan continued to apply relentless pressure in the offensive zone and finally pulled Stewart with 1:26 left in the game for one last offensive foray.
With six attackers, the Wildcats managed to work the puck to a wide open Mark Olver fifteen feet from the Michigan goal. With three quarters of the open Michigan net facing him, Olver, Northern Michigan’s leading sniper, clanked the puck off the crossbar. Michigan held on to kill the final 50 seconds of the game for the victory.
“How can the best scorer (Olver) in the league miss a shot like that?” wondered a relieved Michigan coach Red Berenson. “He might have been in an awkward position.
“Our team was all over the map tonight. You saw the worst and best of our team and sadly the worst came out in the third period. Up until then, I thought we were having a pretty good game.”
“It’s obviously a good feeling,” said Pateryn of his first career goal. “I don’t think it has hit me yet. Even though I scored a goal, I think there are a lot of things that I need to do better defensively in the zone.”
“Michigan played very well tonight” said Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle. “They got two on the power play on us. We had a chance at the end when we hit the crossbar. I thought both teams played well.”
The game started quietly offensively.
Just as he did in Friday night’s game, Greger Hansen popped the game’s first goal midway through the first period, his 13th of the season.
Hansen intercepted a Michigan breakout pass at the top of the right circle, took two strides toward the Michigan net and rifled a shot high over Hogan’s left shoulder at 10:17 for the only score of the first period.
Luke Glendening’s goal at 8:02 opened the scoring floodgates and before the second period was over four more goals between the two teams boosted Michigan to a 3-2 two-period lead.
On the second period’s initial goal, Glendening took a pass from Louie Caporusso at the blue line, skated deep into the right corner and took a sharp angle shot that ricocheted off Stewart to the front of the net. Glendening’s linemate, David Wohlberg and a Wildcats’ defender, slid toward the net with the puck bouncing past Stewart of his own defenseman.
Kevin Lynch gave Michigan the lead only 10 seconds later. Straight from the faceoff after Glendening’s score, Lynch bagged his fourth goal of the season skating through the Wildcats’ defense and slipping a backhand between Stewart’s pads.
Northern Michigan replied quickly.
At 9:52 of the second period, Justin Florek took Olver’s pass from behind the net and converted to knot the score at 2-2.
Michigan’s power play, dormant in the series, finally clicked on their fourth opportunity of the night. The Wolverines had suffered a zero-for-eight power play performance in Friday’s contest.
With the man advantage, Wolverines’ forward Ben Winnett skated to the top of the left circle on his off wing and snapped a partially screened wrist shot over Stewart’s right shoulder at 14:11 to put Michigan back out front 3-2 after two periods.
“It was great,” said Berenson of the successful power play. “We haven’t been consistent on the power play and yet our numbers tell us that we are decent on the power play. Really, the timing of when you score on the power play is huge. Maybe last night’s power plays weren’t as important early in the game, but they could have decided the game. Tonight, the power play was a big factor in us coming back and winning the game.”
The wild second period foreshadowed the wilder third period and eventually the Michigan win, which allowed the Wolverines to pull within two points of Northern Michigan in the CCHA standings with only two games remaining for both squads.
Northern Michigan (15-11-8, 11-9-6-3 CCHA) concludes the regular season next weekend hosting Upper Peninsula rival Lake Superior for two games.
In a battle of two disappointing teams, Michigan (18-16-1, 13-12-1-0 CCHA) hosts Notre Dame on Thursday night and travels to South Bend for its regular season finale on Saturday.