ST. LOUIS — With first-period goals from unlikely sources, Michigan outlasted Colorado College 2-1 on Saturday to become the NCAA West Regional champions and advance to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2008.
“We just wanted to get through the first game,” Wolverines coach Red Berenson said. “We knew that Nebraska[-Omaha] was a good team and you saw how close that game was.
“Then for this team, for Colorado College to score like they scored last night against arguably the best team in the country, I think put the fear of God in our team. We might have played a little better defensively just in respect for their team. It’s a good win for Michigan and it was a close game.”
After a dramatic finish to Michigan’s 3-2 win against Nebraska-Omaha — decided on a controversial reviewed goal in overtime — and CC’s impressive 8-4 victory over defending national champs Boston College in games Friday, this contest seemed anticlimactic and even choppy. Penalties came in batches, television timeouts were long and Tigers’ coach Scott Owens said the pacing affected the game.
“There wasn’t a lot of flow tonight because of all the calls,” said Owens. “It was just a different night and it was tough for us, but I think most of it was just a veteran Michigan team that seemed fresh tonight and they were strong with special teams.”
Each team went 1-for-7 on the power play. Five penalties were called within a span of just over six minutes in the second half of the first period — two on the Wolverines, three on the Tigers — that resulted in shifting power play dynamics and Lee Moffie’s goal at 17:33 with both Nick Dineen and Scott Winkler in the penalty box, the goal that held up to be the game-winner.
“We’ve been working on the power play a lot during practice,” said Moffie, whose goal was just his eighth of the season. “I think I got pretty good wood on the first one-timer. The puck slid over to me, I had a pretty good scoring chance, but there was a guy in front of me. It went in off his shin pads. The puck was scrambling around [and] I think I sort of got lucky. I wasn’t even sure at first that it went in.”
Scooter Vaughan — who began the year as a defenseman — opened the scoring early in the first period with a breakaway goal from Moffie and Kevin Clare.
Rylan Schwartz netted the only CC goal of the night, on the power play at 16:25 in the third. Jaden Schwartz banked the puck against the boards on the far side of the left circle in the UM end, got it off the wall himself and centered to his brother, who was crashing in through the slot, nine seconds after the Wolverines’ Jeff Rohrkemper went to the box for boarding. A minute later, though, CC found itself on the penalty kill again with less than three minutes remaining in regulation.
“I thought we had three or four good opportunities in the first period but didn’t convert,” said Owens. “We got ourselves in some penalty trouble late in the first, early in the second I thought, but I thought Joe Howe was huge.”
Howe made 41 saves as Michigan outshot Colorado College 43-22.
“There were a lot of saves,” said Howe, “but two I wish I would have gotten. At the end of the night, you look at it and I don’t care how many saves I had. I don’t care if I had 100 or if I had zero. We lost the game, and that’s the tough part.”
Berenson said that in spite of the shot differential, it was Michigan’s special teams that gave the Wolverines the win. “I thought that was the difference in the game, was our penalty killing and our goalkeeping. Certainly, we got the opportunistic goals early in the game. I thought we played well five-on-five, but you’re playing against one of the best power plays in the country and we survived it.”
Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick stopped 21 shots in the contest.
“I think I made a couple of good saves,” said Hunwick. “It’s pretty easy to stay in the game when you’re playing to go to the Frozen Four.”
The Wolverines will be making their 24th Frozen Four appearance and the 11th in Berenson’s career with Michigan.
Video: Michigan coach Red Berenson:
Video: Michigan’s Shawn Hunwick:
Video: Colorado College coach Scott Owens:
Video: Colorado College’s Joe Howe: