ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan shook off the rust from a 13-day layoff and blasted out the gate with a three-goal first period on the way to a 4-1 win over Miami Friday night at Yost Arena.
A.J Treais lead the Wolverines’ offense with a two-goal performance, aided by a pair of key assists from defenseman Jon Merrill, and capped by goaltender Shawn Hunwick’s 24-save performance.
Miami got a little spark at the beginning of the second period with their only goal of the game, but the Wolverines shut the RedHawks down offensively, particularly on special teams. Michigan killed off all six Miami power-play chances, four in the second period alone, and scored two power-play goals of its own.
Miami entered the game four points ahead of Michigan, good for second place in the tightly-bunched CCHA standings. Michigan slotted in the conference run-down in seventh place, only four points behind the RedHawks and holding two games in hand on Miami.
The Wolverines’ victory tightened the CCHA standings even further, pulling themselves within one point of the three teams tied for third place after Friday’s action – Notre Dame, Miami and Ohio State.
“We liked our start,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We were concerned about whether we would be a little rusty having had two weeks to get ready for this game. I thought our team jumped well. It was good to get that first goal.
“We’ll look at it on tape, but I thought there were some good parts and then there were some other parts where your goalie had to be your best penalty killer.”
Michigan opened the first period with a barrage on Miami starting netminder Cody Reichard, converting on a pair of two-on-one opportunities and then adding a power-play goal to lead 3-0 after 20 minutes.
Just 1:40 into the first stanza, Chris Brown fought off Miami defenseman Ben Paulides for the puck in the neutral zone, creating a two-on-one chance with David Wohlberg. Using Wohlberg as a decoy, Brown found an opening between Reichard’s legs for the opening goal.
Late in the period, Michigan again capitalized on a two-on-one offensive opportunity. Treais, breaking in on his off wing on the left side, found space above Reichard’s glove on the far side of the net to increase the Michigan lead to 2-0 at 15:37.
“I just saw a very small spot,” Treais said of the corner of the net he picked. “I was just trying to get it to that spot. I haven’t done that in awhile. I haven’t done that since juniors, I think.”
Less than two minutes later at 17:23, Treais scored again. On the power play, the Wolverine banked the puck off a RedHawk body in front of the net widen the Michigan lead even further at 3-0.
Miami coach Enrico Blasi’s decision to replace Reichard with Connor Knapp at the start of the second period appeared to reap quick dividends. Reilly Smith lifted a harmless looking shot from the left point that tipped off Hunwick’s glove and fluttered into the Wolverine net only 31 seconds into the period.
Luke Moffatt replied quickly for Michigan at 1:52 on the power play, tipping Merrill’s shot from the point straight up over Knapp. Incredibly, Moffatt’s tipped goal was Michigan’s only shot on net in the middle period.
“Jon has a way of seeing the ice very well,” said Moffatt. “Sometimes, he doesn’t even shoot it that hard, but he shoots it right where he wants it. That’s really what matters. It [Merrill's shot] was absolutely perfect. He put it right in the perfect place for me to tip it. Smart play.”
The Wolverines then killed off three successive power-play attempts by Miami to key their lead at three goals, 4-1, through two periods.
Although Michigan effectively held Miami at bay in the scoreless final period, the game devolved into several incidents of chippy play.
“I liked the intensity,” said Berenson. “We need to have discipline. I don’t care how hard you play or how physically you play, you have to be able to handle it. I think you’ll see an emotional game tomorrow, but I don’t think it’ll be out of hand.”
“This is not like women’s tennis,” said Treais in agreement with his coach. “This is CCHA hockey. I think we expect that. We might not be the biggest team in the league, but we can hang with those guys [physically].”
The two combatant teams return to the ice Saturday night at Yost for the weekend rematch and series finale with CCHA standings placement at stake.