with gallery: Michigan hockey wins 6-2, sweeps Northern Michigan in CCHA playoff opener
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What a difference a day makes.
One night after barely escaping with a win over Northern Michigan, the Michigan hockey team dominated the Wildcats Saturday night, earning a 6-2 victory and a two-game sweep in the opening round of the CCHA playoffs.
“I think that was the best game we’ve played all year,” said defenseman Mac Bennett. “We started hot, we finished hot, we were just great all around. I thought our special teams were great. We dominated the game.”
The Wolverines scored two power-play goals, finishing 2-for-3 with the man advantage and 4-for-6 in the series.
“Things just seem to be clicking right now. We’re getting chances and getting pucks to the net and they seem to be going in,” Bennett said.
Alex Guptill opened the scoring for Michigan, picking up a loose puck in between the circles in front of NMU goalie Jared Coreau and backhanding a shot between his legs just over 4 minutes into the game. Guptill had a goal and an assist on the night for the Wolverines and scored three points in the series.
Freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba extended the lead with a rocket from just beyond the circles 11 minutes later. Trouba also had a goal and an assist on the night.
Coach Red Berenson said he was happy with the energy his team showed from the start of the game.
“I was really impressed with our team tonight. After last night’s game where their team outplayed us for big parts of the game, I thought if our team came in there tonight over confident, we were in trouble,” Berenson said. “That was a convincing victory right from the start.”
A night after NMU’s offense was able to dictate play during even-strength situations, the Wolverines stifled the Wildcats all evening long, denying the dump-and-chase attack NMU used so effectively Friday night.
NMU responded with a goal late in the first period when Darren Nowick knocked down a puck behind the Michigan net, brought it out front and jammed it in the net after Michigan goalie Steve Racine made an initial save.
Unlike Friday night however, Michigan came out strong in the second period, essentially putting the game away. Bennett and Ann Arbor native Andrew Copp each scored power-play goals and the Wolverines outshot NMU 16-to-3 in the period and 50-to-20 in the game.
Copp added another goal in the third period on a penalty shot, giving him a pair on the night. It was the second penalty shot of the night for the Wolverines; however A.J. Treais was unsuccessful in his attempt during the second period.
Copp, Trouba and fellow freshman Cristoval Nieves each finished with two points, sparking the Wolverines a night after Berenson said his players learned how tough it was to win in the playoffs.
“It’s really good for the young players. Some of them were a little surprised about the intensity and maybe just the pace of the game for the first playoff game,” Berenson said. But they were up to speed tonight there was no question.
Copp agreed with his coach. “I was a little surprised at the pace of the game and I think tonight I had a bounce-back night,” Copp said. “It was a lot grittier and that’s the style we have to play if we’re going to keep going forward.”
Racine, also a freshman, made 18 saves on the night.
The Wolverines finish 9-0 all-time against Northern Michigan in CCHA playoff contests.
Michigan moves on to the quarterfinals of the CCHA playoffs, but its opponent is yet to be determined. The Wolverines will travel to Notre Dame or Western Michigan for a second-round series.
“All I know is that we have a game on Friday and that’s all we’re focused on right now,” Bennett said. “This momentum is definitely going to carry over and I think with the group we have and with the goaltending we’re having right now, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”