ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When you score two power-play goals 41 seconds apart to take the lead with less than 10 minutes left in regulation, you may be led to believe that the momentum is shifting your way – especially if you have another two minutes or so remaining with a man advantage and you’re firing everything you can at your opponent’s net.
That is the position Minnesota found itself in late in the game against Michigan, leading 3-2 on power-play markers by Justin Kloos at 9:54 in and Travis Boyd at 10:35, during the five-minute major penalty that Michigan captain Andrew Copp earned for checking from behind at 8:08.
But the Wolverines went on to win this one 4-3 in overtime, in large part because defenseman Zach Werenski was able to steal some of that momentum back a few minutes later.
With Boyd breaking in on Michigan goaltender Steve Racine, Werenski snatched the puck away and passed back to Zach Hyman, who then skated in left and from his knees, backhanded the puck across the crease to Justin Selman, and Selman’s first goal of the season beat Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox on the short side to tie the game 3-3.
“The turning point of the game was [their] breakaway,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Zach Werenski caught their player and he was on his heels and he got back – and I don’t know how he did it – but he caught that player who was full speed ahead and got a stick on that puck. We went back and scored. A play like that could be the difference in the game.”
And indeed it was.
Said Minnesota coach Don Lucia, “You put yourself up 3-2 under 10 minutes to go in the game, you’ve got to close it out.”
The Gophers took a 1-0 lead at 7:03 in the first when Connor Reilly picked up Ryan Collins’ rebound. The goal was the ninth of the season for Reilly, a team best for the year so far and a career best for Reilly. Hyman evened it up for the Wolverines at 1:44 in the second.
The game began to get chippy in the third long before Copp left the game with his major penalty and misconduct. At 7:24, Minnesota’s Ryan Collins was called for roughing, the third penalty of the period. That led to Dylan Larkin’s power-play goal at 7:48, giving the Wolverines their first lead of the game.
When Cutler Martin scored at 2:16 in overtime, the Wolverines had the last lead of the game.
“I like the momentum we had in the game,” said Berenson. “I like our resilience, and I think our team took a step in the right direction. Let’s face it – Minnesota was the better team in the first period and obviously, their power play is the real deal, so we’ve got to stay out of the penalty box, but we found a way to win the game.”
Lucia said it was a “hard-fought” game.
“There was pressure up and down the rink [and] I thought both teams competed well,” said Lucia. “We did a lot of good things tonight. We had some better scoring opportunities when you need to get scoring opportunities, but we made a couple of mistakes that ultimately cost us the game.”
The win puts the Wolverines (11-7-0, 3-1-0 Big Ten) in a points tie with Penn State for first place in the Big Ten standings, at least for tonight, and gives Red Berenson his 799th career win. Minnesota (10-6-1, 1-1-1 Big Ten) and Michigan meet again Saturday at 4 p.m. at Yost Ice Arena.