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December 27, 2013
Hockey falls 3-2 in overtime to Western Michigan
The Michigan hockey team was playing with fire Friday night in a semifinal of the Great Lakes Invitational, and with 18.3 seconds left in overtime, the Wolverines were burned when Bronco forward Josh Pitt undressed two U-M players en route to the game-winning goal.
Michigan wasted countless chances in regulation to win this one, going 0 for 8 on the power play while a pair of third-period chances from slumping forward Boo Nieves and Phil Di Giuseppe - the two have five combined goals in 15 games and none in the last five contests -- hit the post, in denying the Maize and Blue the go-ahead goal.
"I thought we got better on the power play as the game went along and started to get some chances, but we still couldn't bury one," head coach Red Berenson said. "I thought we had good puck control, moved it well, got some good lucks but the puck either didn't go through, didn't go in, or we hit the post."
Western floundered on the power play too, going 0 for 3 with four shots on net in regulation, until it took advantage of Di Giuseppe being the box in overtime (on a suspect boarding call) for the 3-2 deciding marker.
All three of WMU's goals were the benefit of defensive breakdowns for the Wolverines. The first, at 10:11 of the opening period - after rookie forward J.T. Compher had staked U-M to a 1-0 lead - came when the Maize and Blue left Shane Berschbach alone in front of the net.
The second came after a defensive turnover deep and a subsequent point-blank shot from Bronco Will Kessel at 15:48 of the second. And the third when Pitt deked forward Evan Allen and defenseman Michael Downing before going top shelf over goalie Zach Nagelvoort's shoulder as time dwindled in overtime.
"The last goal was a power-play goal but still it's a breakdown defensively on a rush," Berenson said. "A great individual play by the kid that scored, but nevertheless, we gave up way too many good chances 5-on-5. We got a few but we didn't like our play in our zone."
Had Michigan won, Compher would have been the story of the game. A week ago, he was sent over from World Junior Championship tryouts after USA team doctors suspected he broke his foot blocking a shot.
However, after returning home, he was evaluated by team doctors, and the injury was discovered to be only a bone bruise. Compher skated with the team earlier this week and played Friday, scoring the first goal of the night on a shorthanded breakaway.
"I thought he came back and looked like J.T. of old -- good for him," Berenson said. "He's been off skates for a week. You can talk to him about what happened but we were disappointed he didn't get a chance on that team. He came back and definitely gave us a life."
Comerica Park announced a crowd of 25,449, but there probably weren't even half that many fans at the ballpark. The expectation was that taking the GLI outdoors, as part of the NHL's Winter Classic festivities, would draw a huge following and a lively atmosphere, but it was hardly that, and the ice was in extremely poor shape.
Michigan falls to 2-2-1 in outdoor games, and will meet two-time outdoor nemesis Michigan State in the Great Lakes Invitational consolation game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday with Fox Sports Detroit carrying the action live.