-- The University of Michigan ice hockey team fell to the Cinderella-story Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks 7-4 tonight (Friday, March 17) in the first semifinal of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament. The Wolverines' bid for a second consecutive CCHA Tournament championship was halted, but they will be back in action next weekend in NCAA Tournament regional action, having earned an automatic bid by winning the CCHA regular season.
Michigan (26-9-4) fell behind early as Nebraska-Omaha, which finished seventh in the CCHA regular season in its first season in the league, scored two goals in the first 15 minutes of the game. The Wolverines closed the gap with Scott Matzka's (Port Huron, Mich.) seventh goal in the last five games, with just 48 seconds remaining in the first period.
The Mavericks (16-18-7) then scored three unanswered goals to take a 5-1 lead just after the start of the third period. After an apparent goal by Mike Cammalleri (Richmond Hill, Ontario) was disallowed, senior captain Sean Peach (Langley, B.C.) scored on a shot from the high slot to make it a 5-2 game.
With just over five minutes remaining in the contest, the Wolverines pulled goaltender Josh Blackburn (Choctaw, Okla.) but the Mavericks were able to score with 2:53 remaining in the game despite being down a skater. Michigan found the net just 32 seconds later when Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist Mike Comrie (Edmonton, Alberta) scored his 21st goal of the season.
The Wolverines closed the gap to 6-4 when Mark Kosick (Victoria, B.C.) found the net with Blackburn out of the goal with 45 seconds left in the game. Comrie added an assist on the Kosick goal for his 99th career point. Nebraska-Omaha closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal with 18 seconds left to close the scoring at 7-4.
Blackburn made 13 saves in the contest, while Nebraska-Omaha goaltender Kendall Sidoruk stopped 32 of Michigan's 36 shots.
The selection show for the NCAA Tournament is Sunday (March 19) at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2 and ESPNews. The NCAA West Regional will be held March 24-25 in Minneapolis, Minn., while the East Regional is slated for March 25-26 in Albany, N.Y.
N O T E S
Scott Matzka's goal extended his scoring streak to five-games (7-3-10), while John Shouneyia (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) extended his scoring streak to five games (2-3-5) with an assist.
Jeff Jillson (N. Smithfield, R.I.) added two assists tonight for his seventh multi-point game of the season.
Josh Langfeld (Coon Rapids, Minn.) scored his 100th career point with an assist on Michigan's final goal of the game, while Mike Comrie's two points tonight give him 99 career points.
The seven UNO goals are the most allowed by Michigan since Feb. 24, 1996, in a 7-3 loss at Lake Superior State.
Michigan is now 0-6-1 when trailing after two periods and 2-7-0 when allowing four or more goals.
This is the third season of existence for Nebraska-Omaha's hockey team and just its first in the CCHA. The Mavericks finished the season seventh in the conference and beat fourth-seeded Northern Michigan in the best-of-three first-round series on the road. UNO then hosted Bowling Green in a play-in game on Tuesday night to earn its way to the CCHA Championship at Joe Louis Arena.
Q U O T E S
Head Coach Red Berenson
On the game in general ... "That was a tough game to get behind in. I thought (Scott) Matzka's goal in the last minute of the first period brought us back into the game, but then to give up a power-play goal really put us behind the eight ball. Omaha played very hard and played very well and with a lot of enthusiasm. We all know that's what takes you all the way."
On this being a wake-up call for the team ... "There's no question that this was a real wake-up call for our team. We've played stretches of really good hockey, but tonight was not an example of how we have to play in playoffs. These are the best teams in our league and we have to match up with them if we want to play however many games are left in the season."
Senior Captain Sean Peach
On the game ... "For the first 10 minutes, they were just more ready to play than us. They got two goals, and then it just seemed like we couldn't catch a break after that. We just weren't ready to start the game, and there's no excuses for not being ready to play. This is something that we can bounce back from, and hopefully learn from our mistakes."
Contact: Jason Gerdom (734) 763-4423