The Michigan hockey team was 27 seconds away from coming out of Madison with six points.
Instead, Wisconsin forward Cameron Hughes found fellow forward Luke Kunin alone on the back post, where he ripped a one-timer past Wolverine senior goaltender Steve Racine to knot the game at four in the dying moments of regulation.
The two teams played to a scoreless overtime period before Michigan won the shootout, 1-0, with three saves from Racine and a goal from junior forward JT Compher.
The shootout win left the Wolverines with two of three possible points from the game and five of six points on the weekend. After being tied for first with Minnesota in the Big Ten standings coming into the weekend, the Gophers took over sole possession of first place with a clean sweep of Ohio State.
Here are five things we learned from Michigan’s trip to Madison this past weekend.
1. Once again, Racine is strong between the pipes.
The Wolverines rarely get outshot. But on Saturday, Wisconsin outshot Michigan, 44-33.
Usually, this doesn’t bode well for the Wolverines. Racine was up to the task all night, though, stopping 40 shots as well as all three penalty shots.
Even on Friday, Racine bailed Michigan out multiple times on odd-man rushes to keep the game out of the Badgers’ reach.
Overall, Racine stopped 60 shots, and after his outing last week against Michigan State, where he stopped 71 shots in two games, his performance bodes well for the Wolverines as the season’s finish line nears.
2. The defense is still a work in progress.
If you think you’ve heard this line before this season, chances are, you probably have. The Wolverines give up an average of three goals per game and are ranked 39th nationally out of 60 teams in team defense.
One of Michigan’s problems this season has been its tendency to give up odd-man rushes. That problem was evident again this weekend, but Racine was able to limit the damage for the Wolverines in most scenarios.
However, giving up four goals in one game to a team that averages 2.62 goals per game is concerning, and Michigan knows that work is needed on the defensive end.
3. The CCM line is pretty good.
Yeah, I know, you already knew this.
But week in, week out, the forward line of Compher, junior Tyler Motte and freshman Kyle Connor continues to score points, and bushels of them.
This weekend, the trio combined for 12 points (five goals, seven assists) and was responsible for 55 percent of Michigan’s goals.
4. Dancs thrives on second line.
After freshman forward Cooper Marody came down with mononucleosis, Michigan coach Red Berenson was forced to switch up his lines. Senior forward Justin Selman was moved into Marody’s spot on the third line, and sophomore forward Dexter Dancs was moved up from the fourth line.
And in that time, he has played well.
Dancs has tallied two goals and an assist, and has a plus-minus of +2 since his move to the second line.
His goal Friday proved to be the game winner in Michigan’s 4-1 victory.
5. Bold prediction: Someone on the CCM line will win the Hobey Baker Award.
Currently, Connor leads the nation in scoring with 48 points. But just five points behind him is Compher. And just a point behind Compher is Motte.
In comparison, former Michigan forward Zach Hyman led the team last season with 54 points, while forward Dylan Larkin, who currently plays in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings, finished with 47 points.
With at least eight games left in the season, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that all three players could pass Hyman’s total.
In addition, Motte and Connor are No. 1 and 2 in the goals category, while Compher and Connor are No. 2 and 3 in the assists column.
While it isn’t obvious which player on the line is in the best position to win it, all three should be in good consideration for the award.