Over Michigan’s first three games against Arizona State, the Wolverines racked up 15 goals. But Saturday night, scoring came at a premium.
The Wolverines (13-8-1) played the Sun Devils (6-15-3) to a 1-1 draw, in what proved to be a much closer contest than anticipated. Playing their final home game of the season, Michigan had to dig deep to stave off Arizona State’s upset bid and didn’t come away with the result it wanted.
“It’s one of those games where we couldn’t score,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “It’s one of those nights where we just didn’t want to get to that top area to score goals.”
The Wolverines started aggressively in the first period — zipping passes around the perimeter and setting up one timers. But as Michigan continued to tee up shots, it was the thud of the puck sailing wide off the end boards that came to define its offensive showing. Ironically, their best chance of the period came on the penalty kill when senior forward Luke Morgan exploded up the middle for a breakaway opportunity.
“I just thought we missed the net a lot,” Pearson said. “Sometimes you can do everything and run into a hot goalie and he was really good last night and he was better tonight. But you have to find a way to overcome that.”
There were few moments when Michigan looked in danger of surrendering a goal as it allowed just three shots all period. But the inability for the Wolverines to generate a goal of their own kept things dicey entering the second.
The second period was a complete role reversal. Michigan played sloppy, missing passes and throwing multiple pucks into Arizona State’s bench. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, were able to establish themselves in the offensive zone, getting pucks in deep and testing senior goaltender Strauss Mann several times.
The Wolverines’ energy from the first period faded away and their offense was stagnant for large stretches of the second. As the clock continued to wind down and the game remained scoreless, frustrations began to set in. Then, with under four minutes remaining in the period, an Arizona State play gave the game a much needed jolt.
Forward Dominic Garcia redirected a point shot which caught Mann sliding the wrong way and, suddenly, the Sun Devils held a shocking 1-0 lead over Michigan.
But the lead proved to be the spark that awoke the dormant Wolverines offense. Just 23 seconds later, senior forward Jack Becker smacked home a pass in front and emphatically jumped into the boards in celebration. The goal evened the score at one heading into the third.
“We always talk about when something happens on the ice whether it’s positive or negative, it’s always about how you respond,” Becker said. “We obviously responded as good as you can by scoring.”
The Wolverines looked to build off the momentum of their goal, but as the third period dragged on, the offense once again struggled to find a breakthrough. Michigan swirled around the offensive zone and peppered shots on net but to no avail. The game remained deadlocked and as it turned out, 60 minutes would not be enough time to decide the game — despite the Wolverines outshooting Arizona State 41-12.
3-on-3 overtime kicked off and Michigan looked to exploit the open ice. Several players were able to get in close on goal but the Sun Devils held strong defensively and as the final buzzer sounded, the game ended in a tie.
“I think we could have been a little bit smarter with the puck, smarter with our shooting,” Becker said. “But sometimes they don’t go in.”
A tie is better than a loss, but after dominating every facet of the game, not being able to grab a win against Arizona State had to feel like a defeat for the Wolverines. As they head towards the postseason, ties aren’t going to cut it.