Michigan began its second-half gauntlet of a schedule on the right skate.
Freshman Jeff Tambellini scored his fifth goal in seven games at the 2:43 mark of overtime and Michigan’s defense held Miami’s high-powered top two lines in check for a 3-2 victory Saturday night.
“We were lucky,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “Miami is a real good team, a hard-working team. They’re good with the puck and they’re good without the puck.”
Tambellini, who has a team-leading 11 goals, said the key to the game winner was center John Shouneyia, who helped keep the play onside and snookered a Miami defender away from the play..
Off a Miami turnover in the neutral zone, captain Jed Ortmeyer took the puck into the Michigan zone along the right boards. Shouneyia drew one of the Miami defenseman towards the left side near the blue line and got out of the zone. That allowed Ortmeyer to go one-on-one with Miami defender Chris Busby. Ortmeyer then found a trailing Tambellini, who slid it under a sliding David Burleigh.
The Wolverines (13-7-1 overall, 7-5-1 CCHA, 15 points) moved into a tie for fourth place in the conference with the RedHawks (13-7-1, 7-5-1) in what has become one of the tightest CCHA races in years.
Michigan avoided losing its fourth straight CCHA game, which last happened 13 years ago. After facing weaker competition in the first half of the season, the Wolverines play 10 of their final 18 games away from Yost Ice Arena. They also must play six games against the top three teams in the CCHA, and rival Michigan State three times.
“With every loss, we’re putting ourselves out of the playoffs and out of the race for the championship,” Tambellini said.
That’s what is happening to Miami, which lost for the fourth time in five games as the Michigan curse continues to baffle the RedHawks — they lost for the 13th straight time to the Wolverines. They haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 1994.
But Michigan coach Red Berenson called this Miami team “the best I’ve seen.” And the Wolverines had to make several adjustments after a lackluster first period.
With David Wyzgowski in the box, Greg Hogeboom scored on the power play at the 8:22 mark to give Miami a 1-0 lead.
“They came out strong — they made their hits,” Tambellini said.
The Wolverines controlled the second period, outshooting the RedHawks, 12-3. Milan Gajic and Brandon Kaleniecki scored for the Wolverines to make it 2-1.
Miami tied the game at the midway point of the third on a goal by Matt Medvecz.
Both teams had one shot on goal in the extra session. The Wolverines outshot Miami 30-15, the lowest output for the RedHawks this season. They also averaged 4.15 goals per game entering the contest.
“We played well in the first. In overtime, we had our chance and they had a chance. They scored,” a frustrated Miami coach Enrico Blasi said.
Michigan played without forwards Eric Nystrom and Dwight Helminen and won’t have them for Sunday’s game either. They will play in the bronze medal game of the World Junior Championships in Nova Scotia on Sunday.