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January 12, 2013

Fragile Wolverines swept by Alaska

Michigan's 4-1 loss to Alaska in front of a sold out crowd at Yost Ice Arena Saturday encapsulated the totality of a season to be forgotten - a slow start, listless special teams, shaky goaltending and, above all else, disappointment.

"I think we are fragile," head coach Red Berenson said. "In years past, we would lose a game, but we would bounce back the next night.

"I can't remember being swept like we have been this year. Our team is fragile, there is no question about it. They are feeling the heat; they are proud. They want to do well for Michigan, and they are frustrated."

For the second-consecutive night, this frustration stemmed from a sluggish offensive start, and the Wolverines, and their fragile psyche, once again found themselves searching for answers after falling behind early.

In a stop-and-go first period that was marred with minor penalties, the Nanooks opened the scoring on the power play 4:07 into the game when junior center Cody Kunyk meandered untouched into the slot and buried a one timer past junior goaltender Adam Janecyk's stick side.

Once again up an extra man, Alaska capped the sloppy first stanza with 28.6 seconds remaining when a weak point snapshot from senior center Adam Henderson snuck by an out-of-position Janecyk. Despite going on the man advantage three times in the first 20 minutes, U-M was thoroughly outplayed and outshot 10-5 heading into the locker room.

"You have heard me say it before, usually I will tell you we got a good start, and we did not," Berenson said. "Last night, I think we got four shots in the first period, tonight we got five.

"In the second period, both nights, we came back and tonight we got our game back with the help of five second-period power plays. I thought our team was playing harder and better."

Berenson's squad certainly responded in the second, but the flow of play was once-again stunted by the referee's whistle - much to Michigan's favor, at least in theory. U-M went on the power play five times during the second period, but only capitalized once with a seeing-eye one-timer from the blue line by freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba that cut UA's lead in half.

In all the Maize and Blue converted only 1-of-8 attempts with the man advantage, opening the door for an all too familiar feeling of discontent.

"Our power play finally scored a goal, but theirs scored two," said Berenson. "We were beaten on special teams both nights. Everybody in our lineup is on special teams. Either on the power-play unit -- first unit or second unit -- or they are on the PK, and they are just not getting it done. That is the way it is."

The Wolverines busted out of the gates to begin the third and repeatedly threatened to deadlock the tilt, but the goaltending woes that have plagued the team throughout the year once again surfaced.

The Nanooks scored two soft goals in the less than three minutes midway through the final period to crush Michigan's spirits and clinch an ultra-rare series sweep at Yost Ice Arena.

Janecyk yielded four goals on 28 shots, while Alaska freshman netminder John Keeney was stellar all night, making 30 saves - many of the spectacular variety.

"It is a one-goal game going into the third just like last night, and then we give up the next goal," Berenson said. "We had good chances and fought for loose pucks, but we are not putting our chances in, and we are giving up goals we shouldn't give up.

"We can't make any more excuses, that is the way it is."

With the loss, Michigan has dropped four-straight and seven of its last 10, and is running out of chances to salvage an inexplicable season.


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