In Friday night’s win over No. 3 Minnesota, it seemed like every bounce went in the No. 7 Michigan hockey team’s favor. Despite spending large portions of the game playing in their own zone and getting outshot, 30-19, the Wolverines found a way to beat the Golden Gophers, 5-2.
Three of those five goals came with a bit of luck. A deflected pass hit off multiple skates before finding its way to freshman forward Thomas Bordeleau right in front of the net for an easy goal. Following a scrum in front of the net, the puck floated to freshman forward Kent Johnson who roofed a backhand. Later, a shot off the post ended up in the slot and sophomore forward Nick Granowicz — left uncovered — potted it to seal the game for Michigan.
Saturday night, it was the exact opposite. Good plays by the Wolverines resulted in Minnesota goals, while the bounces Michigan got the night before just weren’t there, resulting in a 4-2 loss.
“At the end of the day, there’s gonna be a lot of adversity in these next couple of games,” junior defenseman Nick Blankenburg said. “We gotta find a way to get through that.”
Michigan never led in the loss, following an opening goal which it would have liked to have back. A chip-pass at the blue line from Minnesota forward Blake McLaughlin led forwards Sammy Walker and Bryce Brodzinski on a 2-on-1, with only sophomore defenseman Cam York to beat.
Rather than dish it off to Brodzinski, Walker tried to dangle around York, but York got a piece of his stick, seemingly killing the Gophers’ chance. Instead, the puck rolled right to Brodzinski, who put a backhand past junior goaltender Strauss Mann.
While the Wolverines quickly responded to Brodzinski’s goal, bounces in Minnesota’s favor later in the game effectively put Michigan away. Seconds after an early third-period power play, with multiple Wolverines on the ice shaken up from blocked shots, McLaughlin found himself open at the right circle, with a chance for a one-timer. He didn’t get all of it and didn’t hit the net, but the puck bounced off the post, off Mann’s leg and in for the Gophers’ third goal of the game.
“You never want to give up goals, and you never want adversity throughout the game,” Michigan assistant coach Kris Mayotte said. “We were close to getting that (penalty) killed, which I think would have helped us. I think I feel it’s been something that’s given us momentum throughout games recently, and it certainly didn’t tonight.”
But then came the real dagger. With under two minutes left and Michigan’s net empty after cutting the deficit to one, a rebound bounced to Granowicz directly in front of the net. It seemed as though a bounce would finally go the Wolverines’ way. Granowicz, though, was stone-walled by Minnesota goaltender Jack LaFontaine, and the rebound bounced right to defenseman Ryan Johnson who sent it the entire length of the ice and into the empty net.
“I thought our response was pretty good and overall I thought we had a pretty good third,” Blankenburg said. “So if we can keep handling adversity like that and just keep grinding I think we’re in a pretty good spot.”
While the Wolverines played well following McLaughlin’s goal, like Blankenburg said, eventually their lack of puck luck proved too much to overcome. Hockey is often a game of bounces, and Saturday, they were few and far between for Michigan.
Against a team as good as the Gophers, Michigan needs a little luck. Both games this weekend proved that, in either direction. Saturday, the Wolverines seemed to play a more comprehensive game, but without those same bounces that they got on Friday, they came up short.