The first overtime period of the season didn’t amount to much for the No. 14 Michigan hockey team.
Against Penn State on Nov. 16, the extra period lasted approximately six seconds when Nittany Lion forward Sam Sternschein scored the overtime goal.
So the first real taste of overtime came in this weekend’s series against Wisconsin, with both a double-overtime win and a shootout loss.
And Hayden Lavigne stayed front and center.
The junior goaltender played a major factor during regulation in both games, allowing only one goal in 18 attempts Friday and two in 37 attempts Saturday. It was in the overtime periods that he shined the most, however.
Lavigne has struggled to maintain his spot in the net. After coming into the season as the unquestioned starter, his shaky performances pushed freshman Strauss Mann in the rotation to add competition. Against Penn State, though, Mann received starting nods to start the entire weekend, rather than splitting with Lavigne — a rotation Michigan has maintained throughout the season.
So this weekend’s extra periods were, in a sense, redemption.
“Hayden Lavigne, excellent,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “He’s the reason we got the point tonight. Good for him. That’s the Hayden that we’ve come to expect and know, so a really good weekend for him.”
It didn’t come easy. Friday, Lavigne fended off two Badger pushes in overtime before forcing a double-overtime period that ended briefly. But after Quinn Hughes, Will Lockwood and Josh Norris took control of the puck, little needed to be done goaltending-wise. The Wolverines had scored in their first offensive possession.
And it came to Lavigne’s relief. The fast-paced nature of three-on-three hockey makes Lavigne “really anxious,” and the team doesn’t practice any three-on-three.
That was until Saturday, when Michigan found itself in another double-overtime period. Except this time, it was in a worse situation. The Wolverines had committed a penalty right before the initial overtime period ended, which carried into the next period.
So rather than playing already troublesome three-on-three hockey, Lavigne had to battle against Wisconsin’s man-advantage.
“I just kind of knew that there was going to be a guy open at all times, and look for a one-timer like how they scored their first power play goal on,” Lavigne said. “Sure enough, we did a good job of getting in lanes. So there wasn’t an initial shot option for most of the guys, and I just tried to try to stay calm and make sure I was making reads and knowing where everybody was.”
Added Pearson: “They made a couple nice plays, had guys all alone, and Hayden made key saves. He battled tonight. He competed tonight. He was sharp, he was sharp. You could tell he was on it and he made it look pretty easy.”
Staying calm was a strategy that proved successful in double overtime for Lavigne. So when play extended to a shootout, he did it again.
“I try to stay calm,” Lavigne said. “The biggest thing is outwaiting the shooter.”
In the first shootout attempt, the patience paid off. Choosing to put pressure on the shooter, Lavigne positioned himself out far to block off the shot lanes. He inched back to the goal, facing the shooter as he slid back into the net.
Wisconsin defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk couldn’t find any openings and tried a backhand flick as the ice in front of him wound down. It was a save to extend the game at least one more play.
The second attempt, however, showed a brief moment when Lavigne’s patience didn’t benefit him.
“I did well on the first one, the second one I might have waited a little bit too long, he kinda beat me on that,” Lavigne said. It’s kinda patience pretty much, just wait for him to make a move and wait for that instead of trying to make a move first.”
The skater took his time, curling in an “S”-shaped route before centering himself in front of Lavigne. Not wanting to bite too quickly on a potential fake, Lavigne stayed up and wasn’t able to react to the five-hole shot that ended the game.