Michigan hockey team gets 'important win' against rival Michigan State
After going nearly a month without a victory, the Michigan hockey team may finally be getting its groove back.
And for the Wolverines, the timing couldn't have been better.
David Wohlberg and Chris Brown each tallied a goal and an assist, Shawn Hunwick stopped 31 shots and Michigan was able to withstand a late Michigan State rally Friday in a 4-3 win over the rival Spartans at Yost Ice Arena.
"I think our team's a better team than we were two weeks ago and even two months ago," Michigan coach Red Berenson said after the win. "We haven't had a lot to show for it, but this was an important game, obviously.
"An important win."
After snapping a five-game losing streak, and a seven-game winless skid, with a 1-0 overtime win at Alaska on Dec. 3, Michigan (9-8-2, 5-6-2 CCHA) has now won two straight.
And a win Saturday over the Spartans (10-6-1, 6-5) in East Lansing (6:35 p.m., BTN) would give Michigan a three-game winning streak heading into its holiday break.
When asked if he thought his team would've blown Friday's lead two weeks ago, Berenson responded "probably."
When asked the same question, Hunwick said the Wolverines of two weeks ago would've just been happy to have a lead.
That wasn't the case on this night.
"We're just happy to be in games now," he said. "Hopefully we're turning the tide on the season."
After Wohlberg and Michigan State's Matt Crandell traded goals just 14 seconds apart early in the first period, Brown would give the Wolverines the early advantage late in the frame.
Just 12 seconds after exiting the penalty box due to an interference call, Brown collected the puck near the Michigan State bench, skated around Crandell and slipped a shot behind MSU goaltender Will Yanakeff to give Michigan a 2-1 lead at the 11:39 mark.
"That was a good goal, and we haven't seen a lot of good goals this year," Berenson said of Brown's tally. "That was a huge goal."
Neither side mustered much offense throughout the early portion of the second period, but when MSU made a mistake in front of its own net, Michigan freshman Alex Guptill made the Spartans pay.
Guptill deflected an MSU outlet pass to himself, eventually leading to a backhand tally, his ninth of the season, to give the Wolverines a two-goal edge at the 15:47 mark of the second period.
Three minutes later, Michigan took control when Derek DeBlois fired a pass from behind the net to Kevin Lynch, who promptly fired a slap shot past Yanakeff to make it 4-1.
Michigan's comfortable advantage wouldn't last long, though.
MSU made a game of things early in the third, getting a power play goal from Matt Berry just 1:50 into the period to make it 4-2. Four minutes later, the Spartans were back on the power play, and took advantage once again.
A Brock Shelgren slap shot bounced off the glass behind the net before ricocheting off Hunwick's back and into the net to make it 4-3. Michigan State's Brent Darnell got credit for the goal.
The Spartans would eventually pull Yanakeff in favor of the extra skater with 1:23 to go, but Hunwick was up to the challenge, stopping three shots in the final 20 seconds to preserve the victory.
"That was crazy," Hunwick said. "The puck was all over the zone, they were all over us, we were lucky to get out of that with a win.
"It's huge to be able to win games like that."
Michigan State out-shot Michigan 34-27, and held a 14-3 shot advantage in the third period.
But none of it mattered.
The Wolverines stood strong, and are now hoping the victory marks the turning of a new leaf.
"We needed to get back on a streak here with winning, and that's a good team we played here tonight," Wohlberg said. "It's encouraging for the guys on the team, and hopefully we'll do it again (Saturday)."