After trailing 2-0 at the end of the first period, Michigan battled back to upset No. 5 Minnesota, 5-3, giving the Wolverines their first consecutive Big Ten wins of the season.
“Wins have been hard to come by for Michigan in the Big Ten this year and this has been a tough season for us,” said coach Red Berenson. “Our team is rallying together. We know we’re not going to finish probably much higher than we are right now, but we also know that we can get prepared for the playoffs and take advantage of these home games against these good teams and have some momentum when we get to Joe Louis.”
After a four-game losing streak and a six-game winless stretch, Michigan shut down Ohio State on the road last week, 1-0. Friday, the Wolverines fought back against first-place Minnesota, taking advantage of two power-play opportunities and seeing solid play from their senior class. Alex Kile had a key goal and assists on the first goal that tied the game and the game-winning goal. Evan Allen scored the game-winner at 17:49 in the third assisted by classmates Nolan De Jong and Kile. Senior goaltender Zach Nagelvoort made 35 saves in his fifth win of the season. Nagelvoort also had the shutout win last week.
“I thought our team got some genuine confidence in that road victory,” said Berenson. “It was a hard-fought victory. We knew we were playing maybe an even more explosive team (tonight) and Minnesota showed it there for parts of the game. I thought they were really good with the puck.”
Minnesota was especially good in the first period, taking a two-goal lead on goals by Taylor Cammarata and Rem Pitlick. Cammarata swept the puck around Nagelvoort on a power play at 13:21 and Pitlick scored with just 29 seconds remaining in the first.
Kile scored the first Michigan goal at 3:42 in the second, a shot from the top of the slot, and on the power play at 16:04, Tony Calderone tucked the puck between the right post and Minnesota’s Eric Schierhorn on a nice feed from Kile.
At 13:38 in the third, Vinni Lettieri’s 18th goal of the season put the Golden Gophers ahead 3-2, but Jake Slaker tied it again for the Wolverines on the power play at 16:22, and at 17:49 – just as four-on-four hockey expired – Allen scored the game-winning goal, shooting from the far side of the left circle, through traffic, beating Shierhorn long. Will Lockwood added the empty-net goal at 19:07.
“Good start,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia “We gave up too many shots. We can’t give up forty-plus shots in a game. Credit Michigan. I thought they played a good game tonight. They made us work for everything. I thought when we went up 3-2 we were in good shape, but then we couldn’t close it. They played a good game and they earned it.”
The Wolverines were 2-for-4 on the power play. Minnesota was 1-for-3. Schierhorn had 36 saves in the loss as Michigan outshot Minnesota 41-38.
With the win, the Wolverines improved to 11-7-3 (4-11-2-2 Big Ten) but remained in fifth place, seven points behind Ohio State. Minnesota (21-10-2, 12-5-0-0 Big Ten) retained first place with 36 points but was tied by Wisconsin, which beat Penn State on Friday.
The Golden Gophers and Wolverines play again Saturday in Yost Ice Arena, with the puck dropping at 8:05 p.m.
“It’s going to be another challenge tomorrow,” said Berenson. “Whether we got lucky or we got better, that remains to be seen.”
Big Ten roundup
Michigan State 5, No. 13 Ohio State 4
Michigan State scored four first-period goals to lead Ohio State 4-0 after one and held on to beat the Buckeyes on the road, halting the Spartans’ four-game losing streak and foiling the Buckeyes’ efforts to climb in the Big Ten standings as the regular season winds down. Logan Lambdin opened the scoring for Michigan State at 6:44 and had the goal at 7:25 in the second that held up to be the game winner, just his third and fourth goals of the season.
The Buckeyes scored three in the second to make it a 5-3 game – one on the power play, one even strength, and one shorthanded – and another in the third, from David Gust. Freshman John Lethemon had 26 saves in his second win of the season.
Michigan State (7-21-3, 3-12-2-0 Big Ten) and Ohio State (17-10-0, 8-8-1-1 Big Ten) play again Saturday at 8:05 p.m. in Value City Arena.
No. 16 Wisconsin 7, No. 11 Penn State 4
Six different players scored for Wisconsin, and Ryan Wagner had two goals and an assist as the Badgers beat Penn State in Pegula Arena. After the teams exchanged goals in the first period to make it 1-1 after one, the Badgers scored three in each the second and third periods. Andrew Sturtz for the Nittany Lions, including a goal at 18:38 in the second that tied the score 3-3. That tie was short lived, as Matt Ustaski with 12 seconds left in the second to put the Badgers ahead for good.
The teams exchanged goals quickly early in the third, with Grant Besse giving Wisconsin a 5-4 lead at 4:02 and Penn State’s Dylan Richard answering at 5:12, but Wagner’s goals at 14:54 and 18:14 put the game out of reach of the Nittany Lions for good. Jack Berry had 34 saves in the win as Penn State outshot Wisconsin 38-32.
The Badgers moved into a tie with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten while Penn State remained in third place, two points ahead of Ohio State. Wisconsin (19-11-1, 12-5-0-0 Big Ten) and Penn State (20-9-2, 9-7-1-0 Big Ten) meet Saturday at 8 p.m. in Pegula Arena.