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Strong Finish Saves M From Disaster

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Strong Finish Saves M From Disaster


News Sports Writer

Shame on you, Michigan.

You're making a basket case out of your coach, Dan Farrell, and with the hockey season just half over, you've already got him wondering whether there's a better way to make a living.

One night you come out storming, take a commanding lead, and then sag in the third period and hang on for your lives. Another night, it's just the opposite -- you play terrible in the early going, the look at the clock and decide you better get things in gear and then come on like gangbusters to pull it out at the end.

That kind of play keeps things interesting but it also results in ulcers for coaches, not to mention a lot of sleepless nights.

The unpredictable Wolverines were up to their old tricks Friday night against Duluth. Michigan appeared to be taking a snooze for the first period and most of the second as Duluth surged into a 5-2 lead after the first 30 minutes of action.

But then the alarm clock went off, and the Wolverines woke up and bounced back with two goals in the second half of the second session (to one for the Bulldogs) and erupted for four unanswered tallies in the third period to pull out an 8-6 victory.

The irony of Michigan's season thus far is that an outstanding performance is no guarantee of victory and a lethargic effort doesn't automatically mean defeat. It's been that bizarre

Nevertheless, the win boosted the Wolverines into a second place tie with Colorado College in the tight western Collegiate Hockey Association race. Michigan, now 9-6 in the WCHA and 12-8 overall, has 18 points, just two behind the three teams deadlocked for first--Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota.

What ran through Farrell's mind with his team struggling behind 5-2 midway throughout the second period?

"I said to myself, 'What am I doing in this business.' I said 'there's got to be a better way to make a living,' " the coach said, shaking his head in disbelief afterwards in the Michigan dressing room.

"I knew we could get at them. But after two periods when we didn't do a thing, I didn't know what to expect."

Although the Wolverines put things together in the final period, it must also be said that Lady Luck was wearing a Maize and Blue uniform on this chilly evening in which the temperature inside Yost Arena almost matched the thermometer outside.

If it hadn't been for a pair of goalposts, the Bulldogs might have been the team celebrating after the final buzzer. Duluth, which has been having more than its share of bad luck all season, had a golden opportunity to take a 7-6 lead midway through the third period.

Pat Hughes of Michigan was cooling his heels in the penalty box for high sticking at 11:16 and the Bulldogs applied the pressure. Defenseman Dave Langevin, standing at the side of the Michigan net, took a pass and had a good part of the net to shoot at, but his shot glanced off the right post, skidded across the goal line, hit the other post and bounced harmlessly away.

Even Michigan goalie Rick Palmer, playing in place of an ailing regular Robbie Moore (suffering from flu and bronchitis), couldn't believe that Langevin missed.

"I thought he had it. When he got the pass in the corner, I kicked my leg out and as soon as I did it, I knew it wasn't going to cover the post. I couldn't believe he didn't score," said Palmer, who made 43 saves and performed well despite not having much help in the first two periods.

"After the puck hit the first post, I don't know how it didn't hit me in the back and go in. I think that was the big turning point. After that you kinda had the feeling that it was our game," concluded Palmer, who picked up an assist on Michigan's second goal.

Palmer's steady play and Michigan's balanced scoring were only areas that pleased Farrell. Kris Manery and Angie Moretto paced the Wolverines with two goals each while Bill Thayer, Dave Debol, Tob Palmer and Gary Morrison added single tallies.Tom Milani, Duluth's hard-working senior right winger, had a pair of goals to lead the visitors. John Rothstein, Mike Newton, Langevin ad Keith Hendrickson also turned on the red light for Duluth.

Rothstein and Thayer traded goals early in the opening period before Manery put Michigan ahead, 2-3 at 13:07. But Duluth roared back to take a 3-2 lead as Newton scored at 17:33 and Langevin's bullet from the point beat Palmer 20 seconds later.

Milani tallied at 1:45 of the second stanza and when Hendrickson got a soft foal at 10:45, it looked like it was all over. But Moretto beat Duluth goalie Rick Heinz at 11:45 to trim the lead to 5-3. A few minutes later, however, Milani put the Bulldogs back into a three goal cushion.

But before the period ended, Michigan got back into the game as Rob Palmer's blast from 40-feet out beat Heinz at 14:54 to make it closer at 6-4.

Michigan took advantage of a Duluth penalty early in the third period as Moretto converted Debol's passout at 1:30 and Duluth's lead was cut to 6-5.

Moretto found Morrison camped on Heinz' doorstep and his pin-point pass was gobbled up by Morrison and he drilled it home to tie it at 6-6 at 9:55.

After Langevin's post problems and the Wolverines good fortune, Debol got loose in the slot right in front of Heinz, took a nifty pass from Pat Hughes and found the net to give Michigan a 7-6 lead and send the sparse crowd of 3,757 into a frenzy.

Manery and Rob Palmer combined to score the clincher at 15:04, storming into the Bulldog zone and exchanging a few passes before Manery drilled the puck into a wide open net.

"we gave it away. We just didn't have the killer instinct," said a disappointed Duluth coach Gus Hendrickson. "We had the chances. Langevin had the whole net and hit both posts. That would have made it to 7-6 and they would have had to play catch-up."

"We let them stand in front of the net, we had a couple lapses and they took advantage of our mistakes and beat us."

The rookie coach said his club has been hitting posts and having the puck bounce the wrong way all season. "We play well for a while and all of a sudden--boom--we hit a goalpost or two and the other team comes right back and scores. It's been that way all season."

Farrell had a lot of praise for the Bulldog's effort in the first two periods.

"They did a great job of forechecking. They really stymied us," he said. "They were all over us. We broke down and broke down but I thought they played a great game."

Farrell, who said that Moore will be back in the nets for tonight's rematch (WAAM-7:30 p.m.) is still puzzled and dissatisfied by his team's defensive play.

"Defensively, we were as bad as we've been all year. I just can't believe our defensive play," he said. "If we can't improve it's going to be awfully tough."