Red Berenson himself couldn't have scripted it any better. Behind three goals from T.J. Hensick, the No. 10-ranked Wolverines bounced the Northern Michigan Wildcats from the CCHA tournament with an impressive 8-3 win on Saturday night at Yost Ice Arena.
"First of all, I have to say how great our fans are. I said before the weekend, home ice is only as good as our team, but our fans get caught up in the game better than any fans," Berenson said. "I don't know about in the country, but certainly better than any we have seen lately. It's just terrific. Home ice is terrific, and we just needed to bounce back tonight with a game even better than last night. I think we executed better, passed better, shot better, and had a better team effort."
Hensick put Michigan on top just 3:12 into the first period. Senior David Rohlfs created a Northern Michigan turnover deep in their own zone, and Hensick picked up the loose puck, skated in alone, and fired the puck over the glove of Northern Michigan goalie Bill Zaniboni.
"I don't think teams give us enough respect. I know they think we can score goals, but I don't think they think we can play a hard-nosed physical game," Hensick said later. "We have guys back on the blue line who are able to hit. And the guys in front were able to battle through checks, which I thought showed tonight. I think Northern is one of the most physical teams in our league, and we were able to battle through."
Five minutes later, Jack Johnson doubled the Michigan lead in possibly his last game at Yost. Pinching in from the right point, Johnson fired a cross-ice feed from Andrew Cogliano into the back of the net at 8:21.
The Wildcats cut the lead in half with a power-play goal at 12:39. Pate Bateman flipped the puck over the shoulder of Michigan goalie Billy Sauer from just in front of the crease to make it 2-1. Bateman was all alone in front of the Michigan net after a miscue on the U-M penalty kill left three of the four Wolverines pressuring near the blue line.
Cogliano made it 3-1 with his team leading 22nd goal just 1:20 later. Taking in a pass from Chad Kolarik in the left corner, Cogliano circled out in front of the net, accelerated, and fired a backhand shot over Zaniboni's glove.
The Wolverines added a fourth goal in the final two minutes of the period. With a face-off to Zaniboni's right, Hensick won the draw and dropped a pass back to winger Kevin Porter. Porter quickly snapped a shot at the Wildcats net to make it 4-1 by the end of the first period.
Northern cut the lead in a half a second time to open the second, this time a power-play goal off the stick of the CCHA's leading goal scorer Mike Santorelli. Northern caught the Wolverines on a poor line change and the Wildcats Tim Hartung feed Santorelli for a breakaway chance at Sauer. Santorelli slipped the puck past Sauer and made it 4-2 at 2:33.
Hensick's second of the night made it 5-2 at 8:05, and also ended Zaniboni's night. The Wolverines Hobey Baker Award candidate fired the puck into the net from the bottom of the right circle after the rebound from Matt Hunwick's shot from the blue line kicked out to the Wolverines playmaker.
Brian Stewart replaced Zaniboni before play resumed, but it took just 2:05 for Michigan to solve the back up netminder as well. Chad Kolarik made it 6-2 from the bottom of the left circle while the Wolverines skated with a 5-on-3 power play. Cogliano set it up with a cross-ice pass that caught Stewart out of position for the easy goal.
Cogliano added his second goal of the night with less then 30 seconds left in the period.
Northern Michigan scored their third power-play goal of the night in the start of the third period. Michigan answered, however, with Hensick's third goal of the night with 5:27 left on the clock.
Michigan advances onto the CCHA Tournament semifinals next Friday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Wolverines will meet the Michigan State Spartans at 8:00 pm for a birth in Saturday's Championship game. Notre Dame and Lake Superior State meet in the other semifinal contest at 4:30.
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