Gritty Michigan hockey team grinds out 3-2 victory over Ferris State to remain unbeaten in CCHA
As experienced as parts of his Michigan hockey team is, Red Berenson realizes the Wolverines are going need time before everything gels together.
Consider Saturday's night's 3-2 win over Ferris State at Yost Ice Arena when the Wolverines used a pair of put-backs and a deflection off a defenseman's leg to remain perfect in CCHA play.
Picture-perfect it wasn't. But at a time when grit can make up for a lack of offensive execution, the No. 4-ranked Wolverines managed to defend their home ice in a win that could go along way in defining how strong Michigan can be this season.
"I think this is what we're going to have to expect every night in this league with this team," Berenson said. "I think we'll play better with the puck as the year goes on, but you can see right now that a lot of our passes aren't sharp, our shots aren't sharp and so we're going to have to grind it out."
Despite some of the sloppiness, Michigan found a way to build an early lead. As opposed to Friday night's 2-2 tie with the Bulldogs when the Wolverines (4-1-3, 3-0-1 CCHA) didn't manage a shot until late in the first period, they made things happen early Saturday night.
Then, Michigan made it stand up the rest of the way.
Both goals came on offensive-rebounds - first by defenseman-turned-forward Scooter Vaughan, who pushed a putback past Ferris State goalie Pat Nagle to provide Michigan with a 1-0 lead.
Unlike 24 hours earlier when the Wolverines scored both of their goals in the third period, Michigan had the luxury of playing with a lead.
"To put them on their heels like that - that's what you're trying to do," said Vaughan, who shares the team lead with five goals this season. "They're a good team and so any time you can score first and then have them try and catch you is what you want."
Kevin Lynch doubled Michigan's lead three minutes later, again finishing off a Wolverines scoring chance with an easy rebound directly in front of the net.
Twice, the Wolverines allowed two -goal leads to be cut in half. But both times, Michigan protected the slim lead.
After Ferris State (4-3-1, 1-2-1 CCHA) cut into the Wolverines' lead to 2-1 with a Kyle Bonis power-play goal three minutes into the second period, the puck luck Berenson is fond of came into play. Senior Carl Hagelin banged a shot off the boards that then deflected off the leg of Bulldogs' defender Brett Wysopal and into the net, pushing the advantage back to two goals at the 6:18 mark of the second period.
But once again, the Wolverines were forced to defend a one-goal lead for the second time as Andy Huff beat Bryan Hogan with 2:30 remaining in the second period to trim the lead to 3-2.
But from that point on, Michigan's defense tightened up, holding off the Bulldogs behind Hogan, who finished with 22 saves. Although the Wolverines managed to only pick up four of the six available points this weekend, Berenson was encouraged the toughness his team played with.
"We've got to get in good game habits and we practice all week, but it's still not the same as a game," Berenson said. "I think this weekend helped grow our team in that area."
Still, for the second straight weekend, Michigan struggled on the opening night. The Wolverines needed a David Wohlberg goal with 12.7 seconds remaining Friday night to salvage the tie before Ferris earned an extra point with a shootout win.
Although the Wolverines rebounded in Saturday night's win, Berenson told his team in a speech Saturday morning that it has to find a way to get off to better starts.
Michigan travels to Alaska for a pair of games next weekend.
"We played bad Friday and we realized we can't play bad like this again," Hagelin said. "We showed up today and everyone wanted it and so next weekend, we have to be prepared for Friday night's game. We can't wait for Saturday - it's not going to work that way.
"If we want to have a good season, we have to start winning on Friday."