MARQUETTE — The Michigan hockey team just wrapped up its season series with Northern Michigan with a 4-3 loss on Saturday night at the Berry Events Center.
It also might have finished its last regular-season contest against the Wildcats for quite some time, as Northern Michigan will be joining the Western Collegiate Hockey Association after this season and the Wolverines will join the Big Ten.
The first period of Saturday’s season-series finale looked eerily similar to that of Friday night’s opener. Only this time, it was Northern Michigan that controlled the opening frame, not the Wolverines.
The Wildcats maintained a 10-7 edge in shots on goal in the first period, and they made the most of the advantage. At the 4:04 mark, Michigan goaltender Steve Racine, who earned the start with a solid performance on Friday, failed to corral an initial shot. Then, Reed Seckel, the victim of a massive hit from Michigan defenseman Jacob Trouba on Friday that disqualified Trouba from Saturday’s contest, found the rebound before Racine could react to give Northern Michigan the 1-0 lead early.
Later, with 3:31 to play in the first period, Wildcat Scott Macaulay found himself all alone in front of Racine after a turnover by Michigan sophomore forward Alex Guptill. A quick deke was all it took to clear the net space for Macaulay to extend the Northern Michigan lead to 2-0.
The Wildcats continued their momentum into the second period, capitalizing on a tired, depleted Michigan defensive corps. Senior forward Jeff Rohrkemper dressed as a sixth defenseman as the Trouba disqualification meant the Wolverines were quickly running out of bodies, especially with the injuries to junior Jon Merrill (cracked seventh vertebrae) and Brennan Serville (a “facial concussion,” according to Michigan coach Red Berenson).
Northern Michigan made it a three-goal lead after a tap in near the crease just as the net was in the process of being dislodged. After a lengthy review, the officials decided that the tally would, indeed, stand and the Wildcats led 3-0.
Michigan finally got onto the board at the 7:37 mark of the second period when senior forward Kevin Lynch notched his second goal in as many nights off a drop pass into the slot from Guptill. Junior defenseman Mac Bennett also received an assist on the score.
But the three-goal lead returned quickly for Northern Michigan as Racine surrendered another dangerous rebound that the Wildcats eagerly capitalized on. A backhand shot bounced off the goaltender, and Seckel was there to clean up for his second of the evening.
The night before, a 4-1 advantage at the second intermission proved lethal to Northern Michigan when Wolverine captain A.J. Treais scored with 0.6 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime, and eventually, a shootout where Treais scored the game-winning goal.
Saturday night, however, third-period comeback bid fell just short for Michigan. Treais got his name on the statsheet again with a beautiful snipe on the power play at the 11:00 mark, and Mac Bennett rifled one shortly after to pull the Wolverines to within one at 4-3. But Racine couldn’t leave the ice until 30 seconds remained, and Michigan couldn’t find the equalizer.