Hockey: Michigan Wins Series Opener

The No. 10-ranked Michigan ice hockey team opened play in the CCHA Tournament with a 4-1 win over visiting Northern Michigan on Friday night at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Matt Hunwick, Chris Summers and David Rohlfs each tallied first period markers for the Wolverines who hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. Billy Sauer recorded 21 saves in his first career playoff game.

It may not have been their best game, but they haven't looked this good in a while. After sitting through the first round of the CCHA conference tournament with a bye last week, the No. 10-ranked Wolverines had no signs of rust in bolting out to a quick 3-0 lead on the Northern Michigan Wildcats at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor on Friday night.

"That (a quick start) was the biggest thing we talked about all week," said T.J. Hensick, who assisted on two of the three first period goals. "I thought we played well as a team in the first period and created a lot of time on the power play. I thought our goals were good hard working goals. We got one just off a face-off and one off the cycle, just hard working first period goals."

After watching Northern Michigan ring a shot off the left post just over five minutes into the contest, Michigan captain Matt Hunwick put the Wolverines on top 1-0 with U-M's lone power-play goal of the night.

"I just came back on the breakout," Hunwick said after the game. "I picked up some speed and T.J. came out from around the net and gave me the pass. I was just flying down the wing and saw an opening on the blocker side, so I shot it and it went in."

Northern Michigan threatened to tie the score by hitting their second post of the night, but neither team broke the scoreboard again until Chris Summers made it 2-0 with 2:36 left on the clock in the first period. Summers deked the puck past Northern Michigan goalie Brian Stewart from just in front of the Wildcats crease after Andrew Cogliano's shot from between the circles was deflected in front of the net, leaving the one-on-one chance for Summers.

Minutes later, David Rohlfs scored his 17th goal of the season for the Wolverines to make it 3-0. Rohlfs capitalized on a centering pass from T.J. Hensick that made its way all the way to the far post for the easy tap in and the three goal lead.

Nick Sirota trimmed the Wolverines lead to a pair of goals in the opening minutes of the second period. Sirota carried the puck into the Michigan zone along the right side boards and fired the puck high over Michigan goalie Billy Sauer's glove to make it 3-1.

Jack Johnson rang a bullet from the blue line off the post three minutes later, but the puck kept out of the net to leave the score 3-1.

The Wildcats best opportunity to trim the lead down to one goal came near five minutes left in the second period. With the puck trickling into the Michigan zone, U-M goalie Billy Sauer beat an attacking Northern forward to a loose puck near the Michigan blue line to prevent a Wildcats breakaway opportunity.

After two periods, Michigan held a 24-16 edge in shots.

Michigan controlled play over the final 20 minutes of play. The Wolverines speed on the ice drew three Michigan power play chances in the final stanza, but the Northern penalty kill was up to the challenge of keeping the Wolverines at bay.

Andrew Cogliano would eventually score an empty net goal with 50.4 seconds left to secure the Michigan win.

With a 1-0 lead in the series, the Wolverines have an opportunity to clinch a birth in the CCHA Final Four at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit with a win over the Wildcats on Saturday night. Start time is scheduled for 7:35 at Yost Ice Arena.

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