ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan scored two goals early and Bowling Green could never quite recover at Yost Arena Friday night in the first game of their quarterfinal CCHA playoff series.
The Wolverines coasted to a 5-1 win and will seek to close out the series Saturday night in the second game of the best-of-three series to win passage to the CCHA Championship semifinals at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit next weekend.
Five different goal scorers dented the box score for Michigan in a balanced offensive attack that had Bowling Green on their heels from the start.
The Falcons earned their way into the quarterfinal round with series victory at Northern Michigan, winning the final two games of the series after dropping the opener last weekend. A 2-1 Sunday decision in two overtimes over the Wildcats punched their ticket for the right to take on CCHA playoff top-seed Michigan in Ann Arbor this weekend.
Michigan rested the previous weekend with a first round bye garnered by finishing on top of the CCHA regular season standings.
“I thought our team played well, particularly in the first period after we didn’t play for two weeks,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “I thought we moved the puck pretty well on the power play. We got the goals we needed. I thought their goalie played well and he gave them a chance.’
“Michigan’s underrated for their defensive play, I think,” said Bowling Green head coach Chris Bergeron. “They’re extremely tough to play against and create offense against. We’re a team that’s offensively challenged anyway. All we can do is continuously focus on getting behind their defenseman, trying to get to those pucks first and then trying to take the puck to the net as best we can.”
Despite allowing the five Michigan goals, Bowling Green netminder Andrew Hammond still turned aside 36 other shots from the potent Wolverine offense. Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick stopped all but one of his 24 chances.
True to their top-seeded position, Michigan dominated play in the opening period, scoring twice while outshooting Bowling Green, 16-7, to jump to a 2-0 one-period lead.
At 9:54 of the first period, Carl Hagelin kicked a loose puck forward at this own blue line creating a 2-on-1 break with linemate David Wohlberg. Just inside the Falcon zone, Hagelin bumped the puck to Wohlberg just off the slot to Hammond’s left. Wohlberg dragged the puck and snapped a bullet over Hammond’s glove into the upper corner of the net.
“The unfortunate part of that first goal is that’s what we talked to our team about all last week,” said Bergeron of Wohlberg’s effort. “You turn the puck over against Michigan at the offensive blue line, it’s gonna end up in the net. That can’t happen. They’re just too good of a team to let that creep into your game.”
Only eight seconds after Falcon James McIntosh was whistled off for interference at 12:17, Michigan right wing Chris Brown tipped teammate Jon Merrill’s shot from the blue line past Hammond to extend the Wolverine margin to 2-0.
Michigan’s Scooter Vaughan scored the second period’s only goal, a highlight reel effort, lengthening the Wolverine lead to 3-0 after two periods.
Vaughan skated into the Falcon zone on right wing, using a streaking teammate as a decoy. The senior Michigan defenseman-turned-forward showed one Bowling Green defender the puck, pulled it back, skated around the defender, then found the top shelf over Hammond’s shoulder for the score.at 13:27.
Bryce Williamson scored the only Bowling Green goal of the game in the third period, sandwiched between Michigan goals by Lindsay Sparks and Luke Moffatt.
Bowling Green faces the same challenge they met successfully in last weekend’s Northern Michigan series triumph, down one game and needing two straight road victories to extend their season.
“I think our guys can draw on it,” noted Bergeron. “They know we’ve been in this position before. Even though we’re young, they’ve done it twice, last Saturday and last Sunday. We’re playing a different opponent and we have to execute better with and without the puck.”
The Falcons get that chance Saturday night.
“Tomorrow is going to be a different game,” Michigan captain Hagelin pointed out. “They’re going to come out harder. They’re going to try to get that first goal and then sit on that lead, so it’s important for us to get that first goal tomorrow, just like today.”
“We got the important goals and didn’t give up much,” said Berenson. “For the first playoff game, it was a good start.”