No. 4-ranked Michigan hockey team collapses in third period, settles for 4-4 tie with Mercyhurst
The Michigan hockey team spent much of on Saturday night's season-opener cruising toward what appeared to be Red Berenson's 700th career victory.
But after the fourth-ranked Wolverines somehow allowed a three-goal lead trickle away in the third period, what was to have been a nondescript but meaningful tune-up against Mercyhurst became a white-knuckle adventure.
On a night built when Michigan's offense built a 4-0 lead despite playing without senior left winger Carl Hagelin, the Wolverines failed to produce in the final 20 minutes in a hard-to-swallow 4-4 tie at Yost Ice Arena.
The tie kept Berenson from notching the milestone victory, a mark the Wolverines will attempt to reach when they begin CCHA play next weekend at Bowling Green.
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Mercyhurst edged Michigan, 2-1, in a shootout that had no impact on the final outcome. Jeff Terminisi beat Shawn Hunwick in the fifth round after Louie Caporusso - who scored the first of the Wolverines' four goals - notched their only score in the shootout.
The results of shootouts are reflected only during conference play.
"I think we got too content with where we were," senior center Matt Rust said. "Maybe in the dressing room we were too loose and it carried over onto the ice. A sign of a good team is to not let a waterfall effect happen, and after they got that first goal, the floodgates just opened."
Mercyhurst trailed 4-1 entering the final period, but began chipping away. The Lakers scored on three of their 10 third period shots, completing the comeback at the 11:59 mark of the third period when Brandon Coccimiglio pushed a rebound past Hunwick, knotting the game at 4-4.
Michigan (0-0-1) never recovered. The Wolverines followed up Caporusso's first-period goal with scores by Scooter Vaughan, Greg Pateryn and Rust, who gave the Wolverines a 4-0 lead on a second-period short-handed breakaway goal.
"You shouldn't lose or tie a game when you've got a 4-1 lead in the third period at home," Berenson said. "Once they got a goal, they got some life and they were very opportunistic. It cost us the win."
Hunwick was solid for most of the night, stopping 22 of the first 23 shots he faced. But in the third period, the sophomore who headlined Michigan's magical run to its 20th NCAA appearance last season, fell prey to the barrage of scoring chances.
The Lakers nearly pulled off the upset in the final 90 seconds of regulation when Steve Cameron picked up a mishandled puck deep in Michigan's zone and just missed slipping it under the crossbar for the game-winner.
In overtime, Michigan's penalty killing unit had to again bail out the Wolverines, who took 10 penalties during the game - including six during the second period. The most critical came with only 2:35 expired when Hagelin was assessed a game misconduct early for checking from behind and was ejected.
Berenson said afterwards that he did not have a clear look at the play.
After Michigan killed off the Mercyhurst power play in overtime, the Wolverines got their own chance at a game-winner with a one-man advantage. Late in the power play chance, Vaughan just missed connecting on the game-winner, firing a shot that clanked off the left post, forcing the shootout.
The Lakers' Paul Chiasson beat Hunwick on the first shootout chance. After Chris Brown and Rust misfired, Caporusso's goal drew Michigan even, only to see Lindsay Sparks and Kevin Lynch fail to finish off their shootout chances.
That set up Terminisi, who slipped the puck past Hunwick.
Hunwick was solid for much of the night, stopping 22 of the first 23 shots he faced before the third period. Hunwick remains in an open competition for the starting job with fellow senior Bryan Hogan, who will start Sunday night's exhibition against Western Ontario at Yost.
But Saturday night, it was clear Michigan had plenty of other issues to worry about besides goalkeeping.
"We had good chances - isolated good chances - and sometimes they go in and sometimes, they don't," Berenson said. "I like our team, I think our team can be a good team, but we can't do some of the things we did tonight and get away with it."
Jeff Arnold covers Michigan hockey for AnnArbor.com and can be reached at (734) 623-2554 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyparnold.