Michigan picked up three important points in its chase of the CCHA leaders with a 4-1 victory over visiting Miami. Junior forward A.J. Treais provided much of the offense, scoring twice for the Maize and Blue ...
First Period Analysis: Coming off a bye weekend, there was some concern Michigan would struggle in the first 20 minutes against a Miami team that had won three of its last four, outscoring its competition 14-3 during that stretch. But there was no rust, as the Wolverines largely controlled play for the duration of the period, doubling up the RedHawks 10-5 and enjoying a bigger discrepancy in quality chances.
U-M's effort would pay off immediately, 1:40 into the period when junior Chris Brown outmuscled MU defender Ben Paulides at the blue line, creating a 2-on-1 in which he used senior linemate David Wohlberg has a decoy and beat goalie Cody Reichard five-hole.
The Wolverines' second goal, at 15:37, would have a similar look to it. This time senior forward Luke Glendening outmuscled Paulides - yep, same defender - for the puck, flipping it into the zone where junior center A.J. Treais collected it. He used freshman left winger Phil Di Giuseppe, breaking in down the right side, as a decoy and fired a shot into the top-right corner for his 10th marker this season.
The Maize and Blue weren't done. Already on the power play, U-M went up two men when Miami captain Will Weber was called for roughing after Brown didn't take kindly to a hit from behind Weber delivered to Wohlberg that was inexplicably ignored by the officials. Perhaps as karmic justice, the refs did not see Brown instigate the scuffle but caught Weber retaliating.
Nine seconds later, at 17:23, Treais slid the puck towards the goal crease where it deflected off a defenseman five-hole for the Wolverines' third goal.
Second Period Analysis: After a crisp first period, the second dissolved into a penalty-filled stanza in which Miami enjoyed a 3-2 power play advantage. Utilizing their opportunities, the RedHawks outshot Michigan 11-1 in the period.
I'd be lying if I said the calls were undeserved. The Wolverines simply took some bad penalties, though a crosscheck from senior defender Greg Pateryn that forced Curtis McKenzie into goalie Shawn Hunwick wasn't one of them. McKenzie was the culprit not the victim, getting away with leveling Michigan's goaltender (sort of, he was called for a penalty but so was Pateryn).
However, that play seemed to spark Hunwick, who had looked a little shaky earlier in the period giving up a goal 31 seconds into the frame when he misplayed an innocent slapshot from the blue.
U-M would answer at 1:52, scoring on a power-play goal when sophomore forward Luke Moffatt, parked out front, deflected sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill's one-timer from the point past new Miami netminder Connor Knapp.
The rest of the period belonged to the RedHawks and the officials, but Michigan ended it up three goals, 4-1, and that was critical.
Third Period Analysis: After ending the second period on their heels, the Wolverines skated with conviction in the third, putting a few good chances on net - overall they outshot Miami 12-9 - while doing a superb job defensively. One colleague even opined that it may have been the best team defense he had seen U-M play all year. And he wasn't wrong.
Michigan did the little things right, cleared the puck, stood the RedHawks up at the blue line, made smart decisions, without getting cute, and attacked when the opportunity arose, avoiding the risks that can get a team into trouble.
It was a solid effort that preserved the Maize and Blue's 4-1 lead. All that was left was for Miami to run Hunwick a few more times, without the type of consequences that need to happen for these type of bush-league tactics to go away.
First Star: Considering what he put up with - his mask was knocked off four times after getting plowed into - Hunwick could very well be the first star. So could Treais, who played at the high level he needs to compete at more often. The sophomore had two markers and was the best offensive player on the ice.
But the first star goes to Merrill, who continues to steady the defensive corps and the entire team with his calm, determined play. Merrill also played with more physicality than we're used to seeing and showed some burst in his skating when it was necessary to track down the puck. His assist on Michigan's fourth goal may have been the key play of the game. He would finish with two helpers.
Moffatt on Merrill's shot that led to his goal: "It was absolutely perfect. There was no one on me. He put it right in the perfect place for me to tip it."
Treais on the physical play: "This is not women's tennis. This is CCHA hockey. We expect it. We can play in games like that. We're not the biggest team in the league but we can hang with those guys."
Moffatt on getting out to an early lead: "It was a big start for us in the first period ,getting that first goal and being able to tickle the twine three times. Staring off, banging bodies, that shows us that we're better than this team, we're stronger, and we continued that the rest of the game."
Treais on his first goal: "I saw a very small spot. I was just trying to get it to that spot, and the puck went in. I haven't done that since juniors. Usually my goals are back-door tap-ins."
Red Berenson on the game: "We liked our start. I think we were a little concerned we'd be rusty, having had two weeks to get ready for this game, but I thought our team jumped well. It was good to get that first goal.
"We had the momentum in the first period, and then they had the momentum in the second. They played most of the second period in our zone. They bounced back, and we were lucky, whether it was the crossbar, the goal post, Hunwick, and just a couple of bounces. And then we got a big goal, that fourth goal."
On Hunwick getting run without consistent consequences: "We'll keep sending the information to the league but the league has to respond. I don't know that they've done a good job of it so far."