For Ferris State, tonight’s 5-2 loss was a game of mistakes. For Michigan, the score of the 5-2 win wasn’t indicative of how close the game actually was.
“Four of the five goals came directly off of turnovers, and you know that’s the difference in playing them,” said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels. “With different teams we’re able to come back and regroup and get back into our defensive zone quicker, but here the pace is too quick to do that, to allow you to recover defensively. That’s what makes Michigan very formidable, their ability to score off your mistakes.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson said that the 5-2 score might lead people to believe that the Wolverines were dominant, but said, “It wasn’t a one-sided game.
“They’re a good team, they played hard, they played the whole game, they play the whole rink, they’re well coached. You can see why they’re a quality opponent and they’re tough to score on.”
As usual, the Michigan line of Kyle Connor, JT Compher and Tyler Motte was productive, with Connor’s two goals and single assist leading the Wolverines in scoring. Compher had two assists and Motte had a goal and an assist, and all three players extended scoring streaks. Connor and Compher each have 17-game scoring streaks, and Motte has now scored at least a goal in each of his last 12 games.
That line, said Daniels, is too much to contain.
“They’ve got so much firepower up front, particularly with the one line,” said Daniels. “If you look at the fifth goal … we had them in their end, they had their big line out there, and then when the puck clears the blue, instead of us just bumping it back in and making it hard for them to break out again, we turn it over in the blue line and, bang, they come down and score.
“It’s like, wow, we did a lot of work to shoot ourselves in the foot. With another team, we might be able to get away with that. Against them, you get a little too greedy … and it comes back to haunt you.”
The Wolverines led 2-0 after the first period on Motte’s goal at 5:48, his 28th of the season, and Alex Kile’s 11th goal at 12:17. Motte scored from the top of the slot after being fed by Nolan De Jong and Connor wrapped the puck around the right post for Kile to score.
At 10:38 in the second, Kenny Babinski tipped in Chad McDonald’s power-play rocket from the right point to make it a 2-1 game, but Connor picked up Compher’s rebound on a Michigan power play to give the Wolverines a 3-1 lead after two.
Late in the second period, the Bulldogs had a two-man advantage for 31 seconds with Motte and Zach Werenski in the box for overlapping minors, but Ferris State couldn’t make the advantage work.
“That could’ve been a turning point,” said Berenson. “They had a breakaway along with that and Racine was sharp and had to be and so he never gave them a chance to get back in the game.”
Werenski scored a goal of his own 1:30 into the third when the teams were playing four-on-four, a breakaway that seemed almost casual in its pace and Connor made it 5-1 at 9:06 on that goal that Daniels described, on a beauty of a feed from Cooper Marody.
Andrew Dorantes scored at 16:23 to bring the final score to 5-2.
“We’re fortunate that we got as many as we did,” said Berenson. “They’ve only given up seven goals in the last six games. It was good to play at home again. It was good to hear our crowd and good to see the puck go in when we needed it.”
Next up for Ferris State (14-11-6) is a road series against Bowling Green Feb. 26-27. With 28 points in WCHA play, the Bulldogs are a single point behind both Bowling Green and Michigan Tech; the Falcons and Huskies trail league-leading Minnesota State by four points.
The stakes are just as high for the Wolverines (19-4-5) next weekend, as they travel to Minnesota to play games Feb. 25-26. The Golden Gophers lead the Big Ten with 33 points with Michigan one point behind.