ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In the midst of eight straight contests on the road, taking them geographically from Troy, N.Y., to Colorado Springs, Union paused this weekend in Ann Arbor’s Yost Arena to take in a college football game and deal 11th-ranked Michigan a resounding defeat, 6-3.
Barely before the Wolverines could blink, they trailed 4-0, with three of those goals of the unassisted variety.
Michigan put up a bit of a fight, but never really threatened the margin established early by the Dutchmen.
Union entered the game with a very impressive string of road decisions. Over the past two seasons, the Dutchmen are 23-11-4 on the road, including a current 14-game run which has seen them post a 12-1-1 record.
“It’s our leadership,” explained Union coach Rick Bennett of his team’s road prowess. “It’s Kelly Zajac. It’s Nolan Julseth-White. It’s Jeremy Welsh. And, obviously, it’s Troy Grosenick. It all starts from the net out and coming out (in games) strong, too. Good starts on the road always help.”
The Dutchmen enjoyed their weekend in Ann Arbor for many reasons.
“We went to a football game,” laughed Bennett of the Dutchmen’s itinerary which included Saturday’s Michigan-Ohio State gridiron match. “We did not prepare for this game. It wasn’t talked about until today. To be honest with you, this team’s been in this environment before. It’s an NCAA team from last year and a lot of these guys grew up a lot last year. And we had a great time at the football game. We had an absolute blast.”
Even though Union joined the Division I ranks in 1991-92, Sunday’s contest marked the first meeting ever of the two programs.
Michigan skated Sunday trying erase the memory of a miserable showing against Northeastern Friday night at Yost Arena. The Wolverines were out-hustled and out-muscled by Northeastern in a 4-1 loss to open the weekend’s play.
Union continued its pattern of road dominance and Michigan fell right back into the habits from Friday night in the first period. Union capitalized on a pair of Michigan giveaways and a strong effort by Max Novak to build a 3-0 first period lead.
Only seconds after starting a power play, Daniel Carr found himself alone in the slot with an errant Wolverine pass on his stick. Carr made no mistake, beating Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick waist-high on his glove side at 8:40.
“We’ll take that first power-play goal,” Bennett said. “That gets you on a roll. That kind of jump started us a little bit. I’m sure we’ll watch the tape. We’ve got a lot of things to work on.”
Union’s Kevin Sullivan stole the puck from Brennan Serville, whirled and beat Hunwick in the same spot as the first Dutchmen goal and from nearly the same location in the slot in front of the Wolverine net at 10:31.
Union appeared to have a golden opportunity to further increase their lead when Michigan took a pair of slashing penalties by Lee Moffie and David Wohlberg mid-period.
Instead, the Wolverines found themselves with their best scoring chance of the period. Down in manpower five to three, Kevin Lynch broke in alone on Grosenick, fully clear from his own blue line.
With his scoring chance nullified when a Union defender tripped him from behind, Lynch was awarded a penalty shot at 15:00. Lynch skated in on Grosenick and tried to elevate the puck over the Dutchmen netminder’s glove. Lynch couldn’t quite get the puck high enough and Grosenick blocked the scoring attempt.
After the Wolverines successfully killed the rest of the two-man disadvantage, Max Novak broke in from the right side on Hunwick, picked up the rebound from his initial shot and beat Hunwick at 17:34 to widen the Union lead to 3-0 at period’s end.
The second period started for Union in the same fashion as the first period.
Jeremy Welsh’s eighth goal of the season at 2:26 was unassisted, the same pattern of two of the three first-period goals for the Dutchmen.
Michigan finally solved Grosenick at 11:36, beating the sophomore goaltender on a power play. Mac Bennett’s shot from just inside the left point bounced high off the end glass directly to Phil Di Giuseppe, who was standing at the unprotected corner of the net to Grosenick’s right.
“I’m sure that there’s maybe one or two that he’ll want back,” Bennett said of Grosenick. “But I was impressed with Troy’s effort, especially in the first and early in the second because that team (Michigan), when they want to go, they can put it on you.”
To their credit, the Wolverines applied third period pressure and managed goals by Wohlberg and Alex Guptill. Union countered with goals of their own by Walsh and Cole Ikkala.
“I liked our team,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “I liked the way we started the game. I thought we carried the play. We had some good point shots, loose pucks and territorial advantage, and then we took a penalty.
“Our defenseman had the puck and tired to shoot it out. He got hooked, they stole the puck, put it in the net and two minutes later stripped one of our other defensemen. Two mistakes, two goals, and that is kind of the way it’s been going. The puck has been going in too easy, and boy, it has been tough for us to get the puck in the net.”
Union (7-3-0, 3-2-0 ECAC) stays on the road this upcoming weekend, visiting both Quinnipiac and Princeton for single games Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Michigan (7-7-2, 3-6-2-1 CCHA) packs their woolies for the trip to Fairbanks to take on Alaska in a two-game weekend series December 2-3.