ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan Wolverines combined terrific special teams play with the shutout goaltending of Shawn Hunwick to knock off Miami for the second straight game, 3-0, Saturday night at Yost Arena.
The Wolverines’ first two goals, Lee Moffie’s fourth and fifth of the season, were a direct result of special teams play, one short-handed and one the result of power-play pressure six seconds after the expiration of a penalty
Michigan killed all six of Miami’s power-play chances, four of them in the first period alone.
“We were trying to play with discipline against a team that was on the edge and a team that was frustrated because they lost last night,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “At one point, the penalties were six to two, and we had to kill all those penalties against a real good power play. Whether it was goaltending, or just everyone sucking it up and blocking shots and winning faceoffs and clearing the puck, I thought we did a lot of good things in the game. We should not have to kill that many penalties in a game like that.”
Miami coach Enrico Blasi acknowledged the importance of the special teams play, but complimented Michigan’s performance in the two-game series.
“I thought we generated some chances (on the power play),” Blasi said. “It just didn’t go in tonight. As a whole, I thought Michigan was a better team this weekend and they deserved to win. Shawn’s (Hunwick) on his game right now and their defense corps is playing well and their forwards are doing a good job of eliminating chances. You’ve got to give them a lot of the credit.”
Even though it was his goals that provided the winning offensive edge in the game, Moffie noted the penalty killing effort by the Wolverines.
“Our PK (penalty kill) is stepping up huge,” said Moffie. “Finally, our PP (power play) has been doing well in games. But, the PK has just been huge. Since Jonnie’s (Merrill) come back, we’ve really been stepping up.”
Even with Michigan holding a 2-0 lead, Miami thought it had eaten into that Michigan lead just past the halfway point in the third period when, playing short-handed, Matt Tomassoni took a deflection of a broken stick in his own zone and skated in all alone on Hunwick. Hunwick made the initial save, but the puck trickled precariously close to going over the goal line before Moffie pulled the puck out of danger.
After two separate reviews by the refereeing tandem of Brian Hill and Keith Sergott, the potential goal was disallowed.
“Here’s the thing, when 6000 people go ‘uhhhhhhh’ it’s a pretty good chance that the home team knows that it’s a goal,” Blasi said of the crucial disallowed goal. “The explanation was that from his view, it wasn’t a goal. So, we gotta accept that and move on.”
Chris Brown scored a highlight-reel goal shortly after the disallowed goal, slipping the puck between the legs of RedHawks defenseman Will Weber before beating Knapp with the clincher for Michigan.
The emotions of the highly-contested series finally spilled over with just a minute left to play in the contest. After a scrum in front of the Miami goal, Brown and Weber engaged in a physical confrontation that was punished with five-minute fighting majors and game disqualifications.
Those penalties will carry a one-game suspension keeping each player out of their team’s next game.
The victory means Michigan leapfrogs over Notre Dame, Miami and Ohio State in the CCHA standings into third place. Miami remained tied with the Fighting Irish and the Buckeyes in fourth, two points behind the Wolverines.
Miami (15-13-2, 11-11-2-1 CCHA) returns home next weekend to Oxford for a two-game nonconference series against Alabama-Huntsville. Michigan (17-9-4, 11-7-4-1 CCHA) visits East Lansing Friday night for a match with Michigan State and then makes the trip to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena Saturday night for a second game with the Spartans.