U-D scores final two goals to defeat Salem, 4-2, and advance to the Division 1 semifinals on Friday
Ann Arbor – Some would argue U-D Jesuit snuck into the frozen four in the past. But that was before the Cubs and coach Rick Bennetts formed a plan.
“It’s just as difficult to get there every year,: Bennetts said. “Nobody thought we’d get there in 2005, and it went by so fast. We didn’t know what happened.
“Now we have a game plan, and we manage the playoff stretch better. There are a lot of games to be played in a short time against great competition, and we are beginning to have an expectation to get there.”
U-D showed off its experience and poise on Wednesday at historic Yost Ice Arena, as the Cubs defeated Salem, 4-2, in a Division 1 quarterfinal.
“The win is huge,” U-D senior Christian Wirth-Karbler said. “We’ve worked all season for this goal. We’ve been in this spot before, but it’s great to know we’re heading back to the semi-finals.”
Salem (14-11-4) was eyeing an upset early on as it jumped out to a quick lead with 12:32 left in the first period on a goal by senior forward Noah Willar who sniped the right corner for a 1-0 lead.
Wirth-Karbler quickly erased the one goal advantage when he blasted a shot from the point that deflected off a Salem defender and into the net for the tying goal with 2:51 left in the first period.
“We just work so hard in the off-season. We excel when we face adversity,” Wirth-Karbler said. “We’re a self-driven team, and we wanted to find a way to win.”
Junior forward Nick Gadowski gave the Cubs (21-6-1) a 2-1 lead when he slammed home a rebound of an errand shot on the near side just thirty seconds later.
“We had a great opportunity present itself late in the period,” Bennetts said. “We utilize our speed to get on pucks, and be aggressive in the offensive zone, and Nick had a good look.”
Salem took little time knotting the score at 2-2 when junior Even Newel threw a quick backhand shot in front of the net 37 seconds into the second period.
Later that period the Cubs’ aggressive fore-check opened up an odd man rush. Junior Sam Knoblauch raced the puck into Salem’s end and dropped it off late to fellow junior Teddy Apap. Apap offered a quick deke in front of the net and put away the puck for a 3-2 lead with 12:11 left.
U-D couldn’t rest on its laurels as Salem went on a power play with 1:43 left in the game. After a timeout, the Rocks pulled their goaltender and tried to tilt the ice in their favor.
Knoblauch intercepted the puck in the neutral zone and pushed it ahead to Wirth-Karbler who was left alone in the far circle for a short-handed goal, and the final tally, with 27 seconds left.
The Cubs’ climb to the Division 1 championship game will get tougher on Friday at 5 p.m. as they face defending champion Detroit Catholic Central at Compuware Arena in Plymouth.
Last season the Cubs lost a close game to the state finalist Brighton in overtime, so Bennetts and his team embrace a similar challenge this year.
“We need to play as a team,” Wirth-Karbler said. “Catholic Central is always a tough team that we have trouble in the past with. As long as we play our game, we should be good. We’ll be ready to play.”