DETROIT — After battling in a tight defensive struggle for nearly 47 minutes, Michigan and Michigan Tech exploded for four goals in just over four minutes in the third period in the Wolverines’ 4-2 win over the Huskies in the opening round of the 46th annual Great Lakes Invitational tournament at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit Wednesday night.
Michigan entered that crucial four-minute stretch clinging to a 1-0 lead.
When Michigan Tech finally scored to tie the game, both teams’ offenses broke loose and they traded goals in a rapid-fire manner.
Finally, A.J. Treais’s goal at 11:01 proved the game-winner for the Wolverines when he put them ahead 3-2 and Michigan hung on for the win..
Both netminders, Michigan Tech’s Josh Robinson and Michigan’s Shawn Hunwick, flashed stretches of spectacular play. Robinson made 45 saves in the contest. Hunwick, although he only turned aside 28 shots, came through in the clutch with 15 of those saves in the third period
The last time Hunwick had stepped on the Joe Louis Arena ice surface, he earned the Most Valuable Player of the 2010 CCHA Championship Tournament, ensuring a Wolverines NCAA Regional Championship berth.
Trailing 1-0 at 6:55 of the third period, Michigan Tech finally broke through when Milos Gordic beat Hunwick on his third bang at the puck from in front of the net and the goal-scoring onslaught was on.
Just 42 seconds later, Wolverine Jeff Rohrkemper took a pass in the high slot and whistled a shot past Robinson to re-establish a Michigan lead, 2-1.
Not to be outdone, the Huskies knotted the score 2-2 on a power play at 9:33 when Ryan Furne intercepted an errant Wolverines pass and beat Hunwick high glove-side.
Treais bagged the game-winner soon after at 11:01 when he took a deflection off a Huskies defender and fired the puck by Robinson.
Luke Glendening added an empty-net goal to seal the Michigan win.
“It got crazy out there for a little bit,” said Hunwick. “We thought we were just going to try to win 1-0. Obviously, we got that goal and we answered right back.”
“I think that says a lot about our team and why you play 60 minutes,” Treais offered. “I think we did a good job battling back. It’s one of the few times we battled back this year.”
“If you talk to people in the WCHA, they hang around, and they hand around, and they have all year in a lot of close games,” said Michigan associate coach Mel Pearson. “Obviously, they got a big goal when they needed one and it sort of opened things up both ways. They had nothing to lose, and I thought they came after us more aggressively in the third period than they did in the first two.”
“You’ve got to give Michigan a lot of credit,” said Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell. “Their team plays with a lot of team speed, very dynamic. I thought (Michigan forward Carl) Hagelin was spectacular tonight.
“I’m proud of Josh Robinson. He’s a goalie who’s had his ups and downs and has struggled as of late. I thought he bounced back and played a real solid game for us tonight. I thought we showed a lot of character, bounding back from adversity to tie it on two occasions. But, we’ve got to be thorough and play 60-solid minutes.”
The game commenced much more sedately than it finished.
Huskies netminder Robinson was the story in the opening period, stopping all 15 Wolverines forays,
Michigan came out flying and tested Robinson four separate times with quality scoring chances in the game’s first 30 seconds.
The Wolverines kept the pressure on Robinson for the greater part of the period, including a point-blank glove save by Robinson on Hagelin at the goalmouth with 3:04 left in the period.
Robinson continued to stymie the Michigan offense through the first half of the second period. The Wolverines fired 16 more shots at Robinson in the middle stanza.
At 12:28, Michigan finally solved Robinson.
David Wohlberg carried the puck toward the net on the right wing and centered a pass across the front of the Huskies net.
Luke Moffatt, on his off wing, stretched for the pass and backhanded a shot off the right post by Robinson that bounded straight out into the slot.
Trailing on the play, Sparks buried the puck in the open Huskies goal for the game’s first score, also his first tally of the season, to give Michigan a 1-0 lead after two frames. Coincidentally, Sparks’ first career goal as a freshman last season came in the GLI on Joe Louis Arena ice.
Michigan maintained that slim one-goal lead till the offensive fireworks began midway through the final period.
“As I told the team afterward, it’s obviously been a frustrating stretch,” summed up Russell. “We’re close. We get to the hump, but we got to get over the hump. We’re banging on the door. Instead of pushing that door, we have to kick that door. Obviously, a win against State would be big for us in getting things going in the right direction.”
Michigan Tech (3-12-2, 1-10-1 WCHA) takes on Michigan State in Thursday’s third place tournament tilt while Michigan (11-5-4, 9-3-1 CCHA) advances to the tourney finale against Colorado College.