By Alejandro Zúñiga –
ANN ARBOR — Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson insists his team is better than its record indicates. Michigan coach Red Berenson agrees.
But when the final horn sounded at Yost Ice Arena on Saturday night, the fourth-ranked Wolverines (6-1-1 overall) had completed their first home regular-season sweep since Feb. 17-18, 2012 with a 2-1 win over the Huskies.
Despite six penalties called in the first 20 minutes, the two teams combined for just 17 shots and precious few chances in the frame. But with under 30 seconds remaining in the period, forward Andrew Copp skated into the Michigan Tech (1-6-1) zone relatively unimpeded and lifted a rising wrist shot that cleared the shoulder of netminder Pheonix Copley to give the Wolverines the lead.
“I ended up getting some speed going wide and just saw a little area low-blocker and I was able to put it in,” Copp said.
It was Copp’s fourth goal of the young season — tied for the team lead — and second in as many nights after he scored the game winner in overtime on Friday.
Forward Justin Selman added to the advantage early into the third period. The sophomore fired a shot from the left wing from a nearly identical angle as Copp’s, and, though completely unscreened, Copley was again slow to react as the puck found twine.
The Huskies lost both of the weekend’s games by a single tally. In the first contest, they overcame a two-goal deficit but faltered in overtime.
“Hopefully it’s a good learning process for us and helps us get ready for our league games,” Pearson said.
On Saturday, the Huskies took advantage of a turnover to cut the two-goal deficit in half midway through the third period. After a scrum behind the Wolverines’ net, the puck slid out to Dennis Rix, who was completely unmarked. The forward’s quick backhand beat Nagelvoort and drew a loud roar from the large visitors’ contingent at Yost.
Michigan played without defenseman Kevin Lohan after he suffered a lower-body injury the night before, but it didn’t seem to bother the Wolverines too much. They allowed just 14 shots through the first two periods, and goaltender Zach Nagelvoort rose to the occasion when needed. Minutes before the second intermission, the freshman made a pair of saves through traffic to keep his team ahead.
“I thought the ‘D’ did really well,” Nagelvoort said. “They let me see pretty much anything in front of me.”
Michigan eventually showed cracks defensively — ones it’ll have to rectify quickly, since Lohan will undergo surgery Monday and miss at least three months. Nagelvoort had to make a pad save in the final minutes when a cross-crease pass found an open Michigan Tech forward near the net. And facing a six-on-four after the Huskies pulled their netminder, the freshman had to react quickly to a sharply redirected shot.
But Nagelvoort kicked that one away for his 22nd save of the night, and the Wolverines held on for the victory and series sweep.