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March 17, 2014 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-03-17

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4B - March 17, 2014

Wolverines validate themselves Series in Review:

By ALEJANDRO ZUNIGA
Daily Sports Editor
Minnesota had already
clinched the Big Ten regular-
season title. The Michigan
hockey team was fighting to
keep its NCAA Tournament
aspirations alive.
The Wolverines were hosting
their Senior Night. The Gophers
already had theirs.
Michigan's players and
coaches have preached all
season that they can beat
anyone in the country as long
as they play with the right focus
and intensity. Saturday, they had
every reason to prove it.
But even they didn't expect
the result, a 6-2 embarrassment
of No. 1 Minnesota at Yost Ice
Arena.
"Maybe we were too ready,"
said Michigan coach Red
Berenson. "Some nights the
puck goes in, and some nights it
doesn't. Tonight, it went in.
"We proved we're not out of
place with these teams."
At 7 p.m., when the
Wolverines' five seniors stepped
onto the ice under a chorus of
'The Victors' for the last time
in Ann Arbor, they knew that
no performance could get them
another home game. But a win
would put Michigan (10-8-2-1
Big Ten, 18-12-4 overall) in a
better position for a berth in the
16-team NCAA Tournament,

No. 1 Minnesota

PAU;LSHERMAN/Daily
Senior forward Luke Moffatt scored two goals in a win over No.1 Minnesota on Saturday after inconsistent weekends.

"The emotion, you don't
really think about, but this
being a must-win game, I think
everyone in that locker room
knew the importance of this
game," said senior defenseman
Mac Bennett. "We came out.
ready to play, and it showed."
Senior forward Luke Moffatt
nearly recorded a hat trick in
the second period alone, firing

and they played home two
like they didn't goals and
want their lacing a shot
careers to "W e proved off the post.
end without Bennett who
another dance. we're not out of finished with
When the placew the six blocked
final horn p w th se shots despite
sounded at t m a recent
9:11 p.m., the s- upper-body
Wolverines injury, was
poured out of part of a
the bench to celebrate the rout, defensive effort that held the
one so convincing that senior conference's best offense well
goaltender Adam Janecyk below its season average in
made his season debut with 1:31 every statistical category.
remaining. But it wasn't just the seniors.

Freshman netminder Zach
Nagelvoort shined, especially
in the first period when he
bailed out his defense with
three saves on point-blank shots
on an early Minnesota power
play. When the Gophers looked
most threatening in that frame,
junior forward Phil Di Giuseppe
earned the Wolverines two
minutes of defensive relief by
fighting for the puck deep in the
offensive zone and eventually
drawing a holding penalty.
Carrying a 5-1 lead after 40
minutes, the third period almost
seemed like a formality until,
just 30 seconds in, sophomore
forward Andrew Copp scored
shorthanded - thanks in large
part to freshman Tyler Motte's
lunging, reaching clearance that
started the breakaway.
The crowd roared. Copp slid
on one knee in celebration. A
night after a heart-wrenching
overtime loss to the Gophers,
(14-3-3, 25-5-6) Michigan was

demonstrating it had the talent
and gusto to run them out of the
building.
"The fact that it's a
shorthanded goal takes an extra
jab at those guys," Bennett said.
"I said last night, 'We can beat
that team.' Tonight, we just
came out, and the second and
third period we were all over
them. That's the No. 1 team in
the country."
The result was Minnesota's
worst loss of the year and
a crucial victory for the
Wolverines, who understood
the stakes throughout every
moment of the game.
"We needed to get it done
tonight and we did," Bennett
said.
If nothing else, Michigan
finally proved on the ice what
had only been true in words this
season. And if the Wolverines
expect to be playing after next
weekend, they'll have to treat
each game with the same fervor.

What happened Friday:
They pushed and they shoved,
and after 60 minutes of gritty,
evenly matched hockey, two of the
nation's most storied programs
were deadlocked.
Then, with three minutes
remaining
in overtime, MINNESOTA 3
a slashing MICHIGAN 2
penalty
called on junior forward Derek
DeBlois left the No. 14 Michigan
hockey team shorthanded - just
its second penalty of the night -
and ultimately with its third loss
to No. 1 Minnesota, 3-2.
With the win, the Golden
Gophers clinched the first
regular-season Big Ten
conference championship.
"They're disappointed,
obviously," said Michigan coach
Red Berenson. "I mean you would
be too if you gave everything you
had, you played maybe your best
game of the year, and you came up
short, again."
Much to the dismay of a lively
crowd, both teams opted for
defense over offense in the third
period, shooting a combined
eight times in fifteen minutes.
Each shot became a rebound, and
each rebound became another
breakaway, but neither Michigan
(9-8-2 Big Ten, 17-11-4 overall) nor
Minnesota (14-2-3, 24-4-6) could
break the tie.
Then, with five seconds
remaining in regulation,
Minnesota defenseman Brady
Skjei - who scored the Golden
Gophers' first goal - took a pass
with an open lane towards the
net. He whiffed in front of the net,
sending Michigan into its eighth
overtime contest at Yost Ice Arena
this season.
"If we played like that every
night, we wouldn't be where we
are," Berenson said.
Erin Lennon, Daily Sports Writer

What happened Saturday:
Senior forward Luke Moffatt
scored two goals and added an
assist to lead the 13th-ranked
Wolverines to a 6-2 victory over
No. 1 Minnesota (14-3-3-0 Big
Ten, 25-5-6 overall) Saturday
night. Freshman goaltender Zach
Nagelvoort MINNESOTA 2
stopped MINN 6
25 shots,
while junior
forwards Zach Hyman and Phil Di
Giuseppe each added a goal to cap
off Michigan's Senior Night.
The win moves the Wolverines
(10-8-2-1, 18-12-4) into the top
15 of the Pairwise rankings - a
metric used to determine which
teams earn at-large spots in the
NCAA Tournament.
It also marks the first time
since a win over North Dakota in
1998 that Michigan defeated the a
No. 1 team in the nation at home.
"This weekend was a good
test for our team," Berenson said.
"And I thought we held up well."
After struggling to find
consistency in recent weeks, the
Wolverines put together one of
their strongest performances
of the year behind a relentless
forecheck, opportunistic offense
and timely saves when they most
needed a win.
"I thought you saw a killer
mentality that you haven't really
seen all year," said sophomore
forward Andrew Copp."
Moffatt first tallied 22 seconds
into the period, swinging his stick
like a baseball bat to drive in a
puck that hung in the air over the
crease from a deflection off the
boards. His second goal came on
a one-timer during a power-play
opportunity.
"I guess all those years of my
dad making me play baseball as
a child paid off, finally," Moffatt
said.
Greg Garno, Daily Sports Editor

A satisfying home. inale for Mac Bennett

ac Bennett was lying
inahospital bed,
thinking this day
would never come.
The chance to step onto the
surface of Yost Ice Arena in the
final home game of his illustrious
career was no longer something
to look forward to. Because Feb.
22, the doctors at the University
hospital told Bennett his season
was over.
He had
sustained
a clean, but
heavy hit
in a game
against Penn
State that
evening and, IERMY
right away,
it looked bad SUMMITT
enough to end
his season.
But two hours after Bennett
received the news, the same
doctors told him they were just
kidding.
Well, not kidding, but rather
they made a mistake. Bennett's
injury wasn't as severe as they
initially thought. His season
wasn't over, and he could breathe
again. Senior Night wouldn't be
spent watching his teammates
from the stands after all.
It almost was. And then it was
almost spoiled again when the
Wolverines dropped an overtime
heartbreaker to Minnesota
Friday, a game they desperately
needed to win in order to
solidify any NCAA Tournament
aspirations. Instead, the Golden
Gophers clinched the regular-
season Big Ten championship.
That meant Saturday's
rematch was as big as they come.
With No.1 Minnesota in town,
on Senior Night, with a chance
to make a national statement and
squirm itsaway into the NCAA
Tournament, Michigan had all
the pressure on its shoulders.
"I couldn't ask for anything
more," Bennett said.
Thirty minutes before
Saturday's game, Bennett
emerged from the bowels of the
arena, in the middle of a line of
0

"If you just listen to him speak,
you can tell he's aleader," said
Michigan coach Red Berenson.
Bennett was the final member
of the senior class to be honored
Saturday. He came out of the
tunnel one last time, and all his
teammates were waiting for him
on the blue line. Bennett hugged
every one of them without letting
his contagious grin slip off his
face. When he got to his coach, he
said something that even made
Berenson crack a smile - a well-
known rarity.
Before all of Saturday's
theatrics, Bennett's goodbyes
had already started. After
Thursday's practice, he walked
off the ice to greet his parents
with a long embrace.
If those two hours in the
hospital room were a reality,
those hugs would have been
bittersweet. At the time, in that
room, he was all alone. It was
some of the worst news Bennett
could have imagined, and he
couldn't quite grasp that he
wouldn't play at Yost ever again.
He was lucky he didn't have to.
Instead, the sentiment comes
three weeks later. Bennett now
has to cope with the idea that
his career at Yost is certainly
over. There aren't any doctors
who can put him in front of
the Children of Yost for one
last time or show him an X-ray
that can function as a ticket
to singing a rendition of 'The
Victors' in the Southeast corner
of the arena.
But at the end of Senior
Night, Bennett was ina
comfortable place. He was
by the Michigan bench,
hugging his mother and father
again. Now, the feeling was
uncontrollably bittersweet,
and that much was evident as
Bennett held back tears during
the post-game press conference.
That final game at Yost
became a reality he had no
choice but to accept.
Jeremy Summitt can be
reached at jssumm@umich.edu
or on Twitter @jeremysummitt.

PAUL SHERMAN/Daily
Senior defenseman Mac Bennett celebrates in front of the Michigan student section with the rest of the senior class after a 6-2 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
Wolverines as he stepped onto the countdown clock, he stopped Even Bennett's longtime covered the puck for a faceoff and
the ice for pregame warmups. and whacked Downing in the friend and classmate, third-string Bennett's shift was over.
He took his place at center shin with his stick, just as he goaltender Adam Janecyk, was "I was just kind of like,'Whoa,'
ice, passingwith his defensive always does. able to enter the game less than "Bennett said. "This is the last
partner, freshman Michael As starters, Bennett skated two minutes remaining. And that shift I'll ever play here. I don't
Downing. toward his best friend since made Bennett's final shift all the think I've quite wrapped my
On the video board, footage of childhood, senior forward Derek more appropriate, standing in head around it."
his pregame routine continued DeBlois, and the two exchanged front of Janecyk the entire time. He coasted toward the bench
rolling for several minutes. a head butt and a pat on the back Michigan's to take a
He offered words to several before parting ways. Their night captain stepped seat next to
teammates while waiting for had finally come. on the ice "I don't think Downing.
drills, and shared a laugh with for his final The freshman
junior defenseman Andrew encore with 110 I've quite prodigy
Sinelli. seconds left. He wrapped
Bennett was the last one off Saturday's narrative was spent most of w rapped my his right
the ice for warmups. He was something Bennett could never his final minute arm around
soaking up his last moments. have played out in his head battling in the head around it" Bennett's
With his final pregame routine beforehand. In fact, no one same corner shoulder and
at Yost in the books, he stepped expected Michigan to waltz he sustained said, "Great
through the door, gave fist bumps through Minnesota like it did, his injury just job, man."
to two children in the stands and by a convincing 6-2 score. The three weeks ago. The final shift Downing's three words don't
made hisway to the locker room. Wolverines never trailed on wasn't glorious, and any other do Bennett justice, but everyone
Player introductions earned Senior Night, and a flurry of four time would have been labeled as at the arena would have likely
Bennett the loudest cheer all second-period goals was enough just another poised performance said the same thing. Bennett is
weekend, and as he made his way to ensure the evening would be a in his own zone. But when the Michigan's backbone, the leader
to the blue line with 3:25 left on lasting, positive memory. clock read 43.9 seconds, Janecyk and the voice of the locker room.

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