ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Entering the third period tied 2-2 as they had the previous night, Michigan managed three third period goals to win 5-2 against a Western Michigan team that had actually outplayed them most of the final 20 minutes.
After Western Michigan ended Michigan’s home unbeaten streak at 19 games on Friday, the Wolverine win repaid the Broncos, breaking their season-long unbeaten streak that had reached nine games.
For the second straight night, the game-winning goal went in off the stick of Michigan defenseman Mac Bennett.
In the series opener, Bennett had inadvertantly batted the puck by his own goaltender, Shawn Hunwick, in the game’s final minute giving Western Michigan the win.
In Saturday’s contest, Bennett’s power-play shot at 3:33 of the third period from the left point beat Bronco netminder Frank Slubowski to give the Wolverines a lead, 3-2, that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Western Michigan battered Hunwick with shots, 11 in all, in the final period, but couldn’t solve the Michigan goaltender.
Late in the third period, Kevin Lynch stripped WMU defenseman Jordan Oesterle of the puck in the neutral zone, skated deep into the right corner and centered a pass to A.J. Treais, who converted at 15:12 to ice the win for Michigan. Lynch scored an empty net effort at 19:00 after nearly two minutes of Western Michigan pressure. The Broncos had pulled Slubowski for an extra attacker with 2:57 left in the game in a last-ditch effort to even the scoreboard.
“I thought our team came out, I shouldn’t say flat, but we were tight and we weren’t good with the puck,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “We were hanging on without the puck. Then in the second period when we fell behind, I thought we started to play our best hockey.
“The third period was anyone’s game. Our power play kicked in tonight and good for them. Our penalty killing was solid, but we didn’t have to kill six penalties.”
“I think we had a few key mistakes,” hinted Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray. “We gave up a couple power-play goals that we would’ve liked to have back. They got to practice their power play more than we did tonight.”
In direct contrast to the fast-paced opening period in Friday night’s series opener, the first period started slowly with Western often pinning Michigan in their own zone with an aggressive forecheck.
The Broncos missed a glorious scoring opportunity on the power play just over two minutes into the game when Shane Berschbach found himself all alone with puck at the side of the Michigan cage and Hunwick completely out of the net. Berschbach fired the puck into Hunwick instead of the gaping goal.
The flow of play started to turn in Michigan’s mid-period and Derek DeBlois was the beneficiary of the increased pressure. At 10:57, DeBlois beat Slubowski on a rebound to give Michigan a 1-0 lead on the period’s only goal.
Western Michigan dominated much of the second period, erasing Michigan’s one-goal lead early in the period and then taking the lead themselves mid-period. Michigan capitalized on a power play to knot the score at 2-2 after two periods, exactly the same scenario that existed Friday.
Wasting little time after the second period opening puck drop, Chase Balisy tied the game at 1-1 when he lifted a backhand over Hunwick from close range at 1:09 on a rebound from his own original shot.
At 10:18, on another rebound, Derek Roehl banged home a rebounding carom off a goalpost that originated from Luke Witkowski’s shot from the right half-boards, giving the Broncos their first lead of the game.
Despite being outshot 13-5 and outplayed territorially in the middle period, Michigan tied the game 2-2 at 15:42 on Alex Guptill’s power-play effort. Guptill took Greg Pateryn’s pass from the blue line in the low slot in front of Slubowski. The Michigan freshman forward had the room and the time to calmly turn and beat Slubowski.
Guptill’s goal set the stage for the third period dramatics of Bennett, Treais and Lynch.
“It’s disappointing for us,” said Murray. “Last night, we didn’t play as well as we thought we should have. Tonight, our game was actually better, but the bottom line was that it wasn’t good enough. I think the days of Western Michigan coming up here and being happy with a split are gone. There’s an upset group in there (the Western Michigan locker room). We came here on a mission and we didn’t get it done.”
“I thought we played better defense today,” Berenson suggested. “We played with a little more urgency. You have got to play well without the puck when you have a lead in the game or if you’re trying to catch up in the game.”
Michigan (7-2-1, 3-2-1-1 CCHA) hits the road next weekend for a pair of games with struggling Miami.
Western Michigan (6-1-3, 4-1-1-1 CCHA) returns to Lawson Ice Arena to host Michigan State next Friday and Saturday.