Michigan hockey team wins fifth straight game, sweeps No. 19 Alaska with 4-3 victory
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
Saturday nights are still made for winning - at least in the case of the Michigan hockey team.
The No. 6-ranked Wolverines won their fifth straight game and remained unbeaten in series finales this season with a thrilling 4-3 win over No. 19 Alaska Saturday night at Yost Ice Arena.
But the latest victory - Michigan's ninth in its last 10 outings - wasn't without its share of drama.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
Alaska had a goal waved off with 5:39 remaining and then couldn't capitalize on an ensuing 5-on-3 power-play chance as the Wolverines managed to hold on in front of a frenzied crowd of 6,801.
Michigan (17-6-4, 14-4-1 CCHA) withstood the late Alaska surge and won despite being outshot 40-23. The Wolverines, now 11-0-1 in Saturday night games, surrendered 76 shots in two games this weekend.
And yet, still managed to earn their second straight sweep.
"Sometimes, you don't play well and you find a way to win," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "Sometimes, your goalie has to be a factor and sometimes you have to be lucky. I thought all those things happened tonight."
Senior goalie Shawn Hunwick played a major role for the second straight night. After making 36 saves in Friday night's 2-0 win, Hunwick turned away 37 shots Saturday, bailing out a Michigan defense that allowed too many Alaska shots to get to him.
But Hunwick was again up for the challenge, making Scooter Vaughan's game-winner at the 13:13 mark of the second period stand up. Berenson called the 5-foot-6 goalie the Most Valuable Player of the weekend.
"We're happy we've got that guy right now," senior forward Carl Hagelin said. "He's our best player."
Vaughan's goal snapped a 3-3 tie, allowing Michigan to recapture the lead after Cody Kunyk's short-handed goal 1:16 earlier deadlocked the game for the third time.
A night after Michigan needed just two goals to claim Friday night's series-opener, the Wolverines' offense was forced to be more productive Saturday night. Michigan twice couldn't protect a one-goal margin in the second period alone, but responded both times without relinquishing its lead.
Berenson made one thing perfectly clear: Saturday night's showing was far from the level he expects his team to play at with only nine CCHA games remaining. Michigan retained its grasp on first place and leads Notre Dame by two points.
"It was a meltdown at times in the second (period) and then part of the third," Berenson said. "But when the game was on the line, I thought our team really dug in at the end and never gave up a shot on the 5-on-3.
"We've got some big games ahead of us, but I thought we squeaked through this one tonight."
Michigan faces rival Michigan State at Joe Louis Arena next Saturday before traveling to Miami (Ohio) for the only regular-season meeting with the Red Hawks this season. Despite not playing its best hockey against Alaska, the Wolverines' string of success has provided plenty of confidence.
"We've got to go on a little bit of a roll going into Joe Louis next weekend to be ready for (Michigan State) and then we've got Miami," Vaughan said. "But it's good to get a sweep. That's the direction we want to go in. We don't want to take any steps back. We want to go forward all the way."
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.