Ice Hockey: Wolverines Edge Wildcats 3-2

On Saturday the No. 11-ranked Michigan hockey team concluded play in the CCHA Tournament with a 3-2 victory over the Northern Michigan Wildcats at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. In the victory Matt Hunwick netted two goals for the Wolverines and T.J. Hensick chipped in for one more while Noah Ruden recorded 29 saves.

It wasn't for the Mason Cup, but the Wolverines 3-2 victory over Northern Michigan may have secured a birth in the upcoming NCAA tournament. After the No. 11-ranked U-M hockey team dropped an emotional 4-1 decision to the Michigan State Spartans on Friday night, the Wolverines had to bounce back Saturday to avoid the dreaded NCAA bubble. And they did.

"I thought for the most part we played a better game (than last night)," said coach Red Berenson after the game. "Not a great start, but we got better as the game went on."

Northern Michigan opened the scoring just 5:30 into the opening frame. Wildcats defenseman Bobby Selden generated the scoring opportunity by creating a turnover inside the Wildcats zone. The loose puck bounced out to NMU forward Matt Ciancio who coasted into the U-M zone and fired the puck from the right circle low to the far post past Michigan goalie Noah Ruden.

However, by the midpoint of the period, Wolverines defenseman Matt Hunwick tied the score 1-1. Hunwick's power-play goal at 10:54 beat Wildcats goalie Bill Zaniboni.

U-M outshot NMU 18-7 through the first 20 minutes.

Kevin Porter and T.J. Hensick would combine to give the Wolverines their first lead of the night at 14:51 of the second period. Porter, carrying the puck in along the right boards, found T.J. Hensick crashing hard to the far post. Hensick tipped in the cross from Porter and U-M lead 2-1. But Michigan couldn't hold onto the lead.

Only 2:15 later, the Wildcats beat Noah Ruden for the second time of the game. Darin Olver sent the puck past the sprawled out goaltender from inside the left circle.

It stayed 2-2 until Matt Hunwick would score the game-winning goal at 8:19 of the final period. The goal, Hunwick's second of the game, came on a wrist shot from the left circle.

"I was coming down the left side; Andrew Ebbett had the puck. I was trying to do something similar to my first goal, coming in the back door and looking for a pass," said Hunwick. "I realized I wasn't going to be able to get to the puck, so I kind of spun back and gave it a turnaround slap shot."

With his two goals Hunwick was named the first star of the game. But Michigan has come to rely on defensive players to make plays in the offensive zone.

"It's huge. It is almost what we expect from those guys back there," said Hensick on the impact of the Wolverines defensemen's success offensively. "They have been helping us out all year, especially in big-time situations."

With the 3-2 win the Wolverines locked up the No. 3 slot in the CCHA. Now U-M will sit back and wait as the NCAA selection committee decides the Wolverines fate. The selection show will air on Sunday at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.

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