DETROIT – After an up-and-down start to the season, the Michigan hockey team jumped on a hot streak in early February, and now that streak is carrying the Wolverines right to the CCHA Championship game.
Saturday night, Michigan defeated Miami — the CCHA regular season champions — 6-2, marking only the third time this season Miami has given up four or more goals in a game.
Ann Arbor native Andrew Copp and Alex Guptill scored twice, while Bloomfield Hills native A.J. Treais and Luke Moffatt also scored for the Wolverines, who will now take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the CCHA playoff title tomorrow. Puck drops at 2:05 p.m.
Despite the lopsided score, the first 20 minutes were evenly matched between the two, as they drew to a scoreless first period. Michigan head coach Red Berenson agreed that the score wasn’t necessarily reflective of the game, saying it wasn’t as one-side as the goal count shows.
“Even though we ended up having a having a pretty good second period, I thought they out-chanced us, outshot us and were the better team for the most part but the puck was going for us,” Berenson said.
The closest opportunity for the Wolverines in the first frame came on a power play after Miami defenseman Matthew Caito headed to the box on a tripping call. Michigan sophomore forward Alex Guptill’s shot bounced back and forth between the post and Miami freshman goaltender Ryan McKay’s back before finally getting cleared.
Miami started to pick it up toward the end of the first period and had several quality chances.
The RedHawks had a close call as the puck dribbled underneath Michigan freshman goaltender Steve Racine and landed on the goal line. Freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba (Rochester) dove in the crease to clear the puck from the danger zone.
The Wolverines found their stride in the second period, going up 4-0 against Miami and finishing the period 4-1.
“In games like this when you’re playing a one-game shot, you can’t get frustrated, you gotta stay disciplined, stay composed and poised and I thought we lost our composure there,” Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. “We made a couple of miscues from guys that are veteran guys and all of a sudden they got one then they got two then they got three.”
Early in the period, Michigan gained momentum after a shorthanded goal by freshman forward Andrew Copp (Ann Arbor) coming off a two-on-one between Copp and senior forward Kevin Lynch (Grosse Pointe).
“I think our first period wasn’t our greatest and it’s been good to get the first goal lately,” senior forward A.J. Treais (Bloomfield Hills) said. “The first part of the season, that never happened. When you get the first goal, no matter where it is, it gives you a little bit of momentum.”
About midway through the second, Michigan put up three more tallies in about two and a half minutes.
Copp netted his second goal of the night, banging the puck off McKay’s skate and deflecting into the net. Junior forward Luke Moffatt one-timed the puck for the Wolverines third goal after a patient play by Treais, who held the puck until a passing lane opened.
“I was just burying our chances and I think we’ve been able to do that recently out of desperation or whatever its been but its been a nice turnaround for us,” Copp said.
Treais netted Michigan’s fourth on a backhanded pass across the crease from Guptill, and that goal made the Miami coaching staff pull McKay and give the nod to freshman Jay Williams.
Miami freshman forward Sean Kuraly put up the RedHawks only tally of the period. Sophomore forward Austin Czarnik (Washington, Mich.), 2012-13 CCHA Player of the Year, swept the puck while lying on his ice to Kuraly, who battled for the loose puck in the crease.
“It was the same message at the end of the second period (as the first),” Berenson said. “We have to play better. We were starting to play on the wrong side of the puck.”
Michigan started both periods on the power play, and Guptill netted a goal on a five-on-three only 55 seconds into the period. He topped the game off with a gritty goal after a scramble around a sprawled Williams, marking his fifth power play goal this season and extending his point streak to nine games.
Czarnik struck again for Miami between Guptill’s goals with a backhanded pass to senior forward Curtis McKenzie who deked Racine and buried the puck.
Next up for Miami is the NCAA Tournament, while Michigan still looks for its bid, resting in the fate of Sunday’s CCHA Championship game against Notre Dame, at 2:05 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena.