Less than five minutes into the third period Saturday night, senior Jacob Hayhurst went hunting solo.
He entered the attacking zone near the left side, with multiple defenders headed his way. Hayhurst quickly got to the net to set up his trap. He had the puck stretched far and away, which lured goaltender Daniel Lebedeff to bite left. But then Hayhurst seamlessly brought the puck back in and across to finish the job backhanded.
That goal widened the Michigan hockey team’s lead to three in an eventual 5-3 victory over Wisconsin (10-17-1 overall, 5-14-1-1 Big Ten). The outcome helped the Wolverines (13-12-3, 8-8-2-1) seal their second sweep of the new year.
After the 8-4 victory on Friday, Michigan coach Mel Pearson was disappointed in how his team performed despite the wide margin of victory. Preparation, defense, turnovers and effort were areas that troubled him. But on Saturday — Pearson’s birthday — he saw improvement.
“Better effort tonight,” Pearson said. “Even though you could look at the score and say, well better effort? But we did. We played with more urgency and they played hard, too, tonight. I thought it was a good game.”
Less than six minutes into the contest, senior forward Nick Pastujov won a faceoff in his team’s defensive zone. Soon after, freshman defenseman Keaton Pehrson got the puck and went on the attack. He took a shot at the left side of the net that Lebedeff appeared to have under control, but then Pehrson crashed in to grab a quick rebound and score through Lebedeff’s legs.
Michigan extended its lead with under three minutes to go in the first frame. Sophomore forward Jimmy Lambert skated the puck down the right side of the offensive zone, with freshman forward Nick Granowicz on his left. Granowicz grabbed the opposing defense’s attention, getting close to the crease.
Lambert then swung the puck across the ice, to senior forward Jake Slaker who came trailing in down the left side. Without hesitation, Slaker rifled the puck into the net to double the margin.
Nearing the end of the opening period, the Wolverines went on their first penalty kill of the night after Summers got called for roughing. The Badgers made the most of the extra man.
Sophomore goaltender Strauss Mann collected a loose puck near the goal line and handed it over to senior defenseman Luke Martin. Martin wrapped around the net and attempted a pass across the low slot, but it hit an opposing player right in front of the crease. Right away, forward Cole Caufield sent a pass to forward Max Zimmer who found twine from the left side with less than six seconds to go in the first frame.
Michigan returned from the initial intermission ready to go. Less than two minutes into the second frame, Summers helped his team regain the two-goal lead. Lambert collected the puck at the far left side of the goal line and sent it directly backwards to the blue line. Summers was waiting there, and soon took a strong shot that sounded the buzzer.
After that goal, Slaker got a one-on-one opportunity with Lebedoff but couldn’t convert. And a short while later, Pastujov’s shot clanked off the right post.
Both goaltenders got involved with seven minutes remaining in the second period, starting with Lebedeff. He charged far away from the net and dove to flick the puck away before a streaking Slaker could touch it. And then right away, forward Sean Dhooghe went on a rush but crashed into Mann with force. Dhooghe got called for charging, sending the Wolverines on their sole power play of the night. Michigan couldn’t convert.
Each side faced calamity in the final frame. First, Lambert dove to try and block a passing lane near his goal but then hit the boards awkwardly. And a bit later, Dhooghe collided with Beecher in the neutral zone and hit the ground hard. Both needed help coming off the ice and never returned.
“We won’t know much till Monday or Tuesday,” Pearson said of Lambert’s injury. “I’d say he’s questionable for the weekend. I don’t think it’s, hopefully as bad as what it was. But they’ll look at him, probably some time tomorrow. But we need him. I mean, he was really good. But again, it’s next man up, that’s what we need to do and injuries are part of the game.”
Wisconsin tallied a second goal midway through the final period when forward Linus Weissbach found the puck near the crease for a tap-in. And then with just over a minute left, defenseman K’Andre Miller fired a shot from the right side to bring the game within one while Lebedeff was pulled.
But by then the Wolverines had enough separation that it didn’t matter. Lebedeff stayed on the sidelines as the Badgers tried to level the game, and sophomore forward Garrett Van Wyhe notched an empty-netter with six seconds remaining for the final say.
“It’s late in the season and as you can see in the standings, it’s really tight, so every game counts,” Hayhurst said. “Obviously a sweep just lifts morale in the room and makes everyone that (much) more happy and makes them want to work that much harder to continue to win.”