Wolverines Advance to Regional Final

The No. 5 Michigan hockey team began NCAA tournament play Friday in Grand Rapids, Mich., meeting the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers in the Midwestern regional semifinal at Van Andel Ice Arena. Jeff Tambellini sparked the Wolverine offense with two goals while the Wolverine defense smothered the Badgers en route to a 4-1 victory.

Coming into NCAA tournament play, the Michigan Wolverines were one of the hottest units in the nation. After claiming both the regular season and tournament championships for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, the Maize and Blue set their sights on the school's 10th national title. They took one step toward that goal yesterday with their victory over the Badgers. They extended their current win streak to a season high 11 games, earning them a birth in the NCAA regional final on Saturay.

Michigan opened up the contest by putting together their strongest period of play this season. After killing an early Badger power play, the Wolverines tested Wisconsin goalie Bernd Bruckler from all over the ice for the remainder of the period.

At 6:58 of the first, Jeff Tambellini scored his first goal of the night on a laser shot from the point. His shot beat Bruckler only nine seconds into the Wolverines first power play of the night. Tambellini, who found space at the point, was fed by Chad Kolarik and Eric Werner after a successful draw on a face-off inside the Badger zone.

Kolarik appeared to score a goal of his own later in the period, but the goal was waved off after an official review was unable to give indisputable evidence that the puck made it across the goal line.

58 seconds after waving off Kolarik's goal, Michigan's Brandon Rogers sent the puck past Bruckler again, this time through his legs from the blue line. The goal, Rogers fifth of the season, increased the Wolverine lead to two goals with 7:09 remaining in the period.

Michigan continued to pepper Bruckler with shots, out-shooting the Badgers 18-4 through one period. Michigan held the Badgers scoreless through the first period despite allowing three Badger power plays.

After 17 minutes of rather uneventful hockey in the second period, the Wolverines extended their lead over the Badgers to three goals at the 18:00 mark. T.J. Hensick tallied his 23rd goal of the season thanks to a two-on-one rush. While skating down the right side, Hensick sent the puck towards the middle in an attempt to feed line mate Brandon Kaleniecki. Before clearing through the center, though, the puck found its way off a Badger defender and into the net.

Tambellini, who is well aware of the experience edge the Wolverines had tonight, closed the scoring for the Wolverines at 7:04 of the third period by beating Bruckler past his glove side for the second time.

Wisconsin would end the game with a flurry of their own, ending Michigan goalie Al Montoya's bid for a shut out with 5:17 left on the clock. The Badgers beat Montoya on a wrap around to trim the lead to 4-1.

"You have to be able to handle the moment," said Tambellini after the semifinal victory. "That's the whole thing with the NCAA Tournament. Guys can play well in the regular season but these kind of games, there is so much pressure and so much riding on these games that experience is huge. We're lucky to have 15 upperclassmen. We know that we've played tough games and tight games, so we're confident right now."

Michigan now turns their attention to Colorado College, the No. 1 seed in the Midwestern regional. The two teams will meet Saturday at 5 p.m. with a birth to the Frozen Four on the line.

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