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March 10, 2013

Special Teams Power Wolverines to Sweep

Four down, two to go.

Elimination games are not supposed to be easy, whether you're the eliminator or the one getting eliminated.

Michigan overwhelmed Northern Michigan from the opening whistle, unleashing a barrage of shots that choked any life from a bewildered Wildcat team.

Alex Guptill's continued dominant play was the catalyst for Michigan to start the game. Guptill picked up a loose puck in the slot soon after a power play had expired and tucked it underneath the pads of NMU goaltender Jared Coreau. Freshman Andrew Copp created the opening Guptill needed, which allowed Alex to find a free lane and slide the puck five-hole. Copp praised his linemate's improved work ethic as as a major reason for the line's success.

"He's working hard in the offensive zone, defensive zone, and he's coming back harder," Copp explained. "He's working harder in the corners, he's beating guys one-on-one, and those are things he didn't do earlier in the year."

Defenseman Jacob Trouba collected his third goal of the season after unleashing a booming slapshot. Michigan head coach Red Berenson insisted that the offensive onslaught was crucial.

"It was really important. that was a big part of the game - the first five minutes were huge," he said. "That team was going to show what they could do. They wanted to outplay us and do what they had to do to win. This was their game, but I thought our team came out and played hard, and didn't let them get going."

Northern Michigan did get a chance to show what they could do, scoring on a strange play with only 30 seconds left in the opening frame. The puck hit a weird area in the boards, and came right out front to NMU freshman Darren Nowick. It took Nowick two tries before he banged it past Michigan goaltender Steve Racine's pads. Amazingly, they had withstood a 23-6 shot blitzkrieg from the Wolverines.

Any chance at a NMU comeback in the second was quickly dispelled by the Michigan power play. Mac Bennett took a beautiful pass from Phil Di Giuseppe and blasted home his sixth goal of the year to make it 3-1.

Bennett knows that is no accident. Special teams have been a renewed point of emphasis.

"Things seem to really be clicking right now," he said. "We're getting pucks to the net on the power play, and everything's going right for us."

In the second, Northern had their chances to remain in the game. However, the Wolverines' power-play supremacy was huge. Copp deposited a rebound from a Trouba shot, opening up a 4-1 Michigan lead. The power play and penalty kill have finally rounded into form for Michigan, and Berenson couldn't be happier.

"We have a list of things that have to go well for our team to do well, and one of them is special teams," he noted. "We've lamented the power play. We've lamented the penalty kill. Our kids have worked hard, and our coaches have worked hard to get better, and now you can see it coming. We've had a lot of progress in both areas."

Goaltender Steve Racine didn't have to do much, as his teammates continued to pour on the pressure in the third. The lead grew to 5-1 after Moffatt cleanly beat Coreau five-hold. Treais won the faceoff right back to Moffatt, who made no mistake.

Copp completed the blowout by scoring his second goal of the game on Michigan's second penalty shot. Northern added a late goal to bring the final score to 6-2. Michigan's final shot advantage was 50-20, and the power play was the difference, going 2-for-4.

The Wolverines dominated from the start, and Bennett was confident you'll see more of the same next weekend.

"I think so. I think it was a good time for us to show that when we bear down and win a game, we can. After last night, letting them back in the game was a wakeup call for us. To go out this game and completely bury them, you know that feels really good. That'll transfer over to next weekend."



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