ANN ARBOR – The frustration level continues to mount for the Wolverines.
After a disappointing showing at the Great Lakes Invitational, losses to the National Team Development Program Under-18 team and Bowling Green, the Wolverines played their first Friday night CCHA contest since Dec. 14, only to lose the Alaska Nanooks by a score of 5-3.
“We focused on defense obviously, and we still give up five goals,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “Whether they score them 5-on-5, and the one case it was shorthanded, the other case it was nearly shorthanded, we just stepped out on the ice and they scored. We give up a power-play goal — a good goal sure — but we aren’t going to win games giving up five goals. I thought we pushed back hard in the second, and we played better. We played better in the third, but it was just not good enough.”
Andrew Copp, Alex Guptill, Jacob Trouba and Zach Hyman scored for the Wolverines, who dropped to a record of 7-12-2 overall, and 4-9-2-2 in conference play.
The goaltending woes continued in Friday night’s game for the Wolverines; Steve Racine played the first 40 minutes of play, allowing four goals on 17 shots, before being replaced by Adam Janecyk for the start of the third period. Janecyk allowed what would be the game-winning goal in the third, which meant he was given the loss on the scoresheet.
“We give up four goals in two periods, and I don’t care who is playing goalie, you have to play better than that,” Berenson said. “I think (Steve) Racine is a good goalie. I think he is as good of goalie as we have. He has to make those saves. Those are too easy of goals, and he stops them everyday in practice. We are trying to win games, and we are trying to give our goalies confidence. But, they better go out and do the job.”
The Wolverines lost the special-teams battle in the contest; Alaska scored a shorthanded goal, a goal that came just at the conclusion of a Michigan power play, and a power-play goal of their own. Michigan was held scoreless on four power-play chances.
“Coach came in the locker room and said special teams is a big factor in tonight’s loss,” assistant captain Kevin Lynch said. “They basically had two short-handed goals — that guy came out of the penalty box and scored that first one, and they had a power-play goal. I think special teams is going to be a big factor in tomorrow night’s game, and we need to clean it up.”
Michigan also failed to capitalize on multiple momentum swings in the contest.
The Wolverines rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the second period, tying the contest on goals from Copp and Guptill nine minutes apart in the middle frame. Copp knocked in a rebound out of mid-air, which was reviewed but ultimately stood as a good goal. Guptill fired in a wrister from the slot, energizing the Yost Ice Arena crowd.
Alaska regained control of the contest, however, when they scored two goals in the final six minutes of the second period.
Trouba’s goal, a rebound try that bounced up and over a scrum in front of the Alaska goal, cut the deficit to one, and sent the Wolverines into the second intermission with momentum once again.
Yet Alaska’s Tyler Morley scored four minutes into the third period, meaning another two-goal lead for the visitors.
With their goaltender on the bench, Hyman fired in a blocked shot from Trouba at the 18:40 mark of the third period. The Wolverines’ comeback bid fell short, however, as they weren’t able to find the tying goal in the final minute-plus.
“It is a game of momentum,” Berenson said. “We have talked about that, and again today we talked about it, and how important it is to try to control the momentum of the game. We give up a goal, our next shift our guys are out there trying to change the momentum. If we score a goal our next shift we are trying to keep the momentum going.”