Cornered, desperate, injured animals make for the fiercest enemies.
Or atleast, Michigan coach Mel Pearson thought so.
“(The Badgers are) desperate,” Pearson said earlier this week, “They’re an injured animal, and you never want to run into a wounded animal anywhere, because they’re just that much more ferocious, and they’re going to come in here with that much more to prove.”
Though Wisconsin appeared for much of the game as Pearson feared prior, the Michigan hockey team (2-2-1 Big Ten, 6-5-1 overall) escaped with a 2-1 double-overtime victory on a game-winning goal from sophomore Josh Norris.
If there was any signs of caution when approaching the Badgers, it didn’t show immediately. From the opening faceoff, the Wolverines were aggressive in the offensive zone, shooting on net three times in one extended possession.
None of the shots converted to goals but it set the momentum in Michigan’s favor much until halfway through the first period. It was then that Wisconsin took a shot on net that was initally stopped by junior goaltender Hayden Lavigne, but the rebound wasn’t corralled and bodies collected in the painted area. The puck flew over Lavigne’s shoulder and arced straight for the net but was shot down and collected before any further danger could develop.
Soon after, missed assignment in the defensive zone left the Wolverines’ in a vulnerable spot. Two Wisconsin players had collected the puck and had a clear two-on-one with Lavigne. The puck came to the player in the center who had swung it to the the other who was situated near the post. The shot was stopped by Lavigne.
“I thought they came in with good focus and good energy here tonight,” Pearson said. “I thought Hayden Lavigne played extremely well for us. He did that last year. We know he’s got it in him, and this has been his best game by far.”
Michigan outshot the Badgers 11 to five in the first period — though neither side could find the back of the net — but a late penalty ended the period on a sour note for the Wolverines.
Michigan killed off the remainder of the penalty to start the second period. Just as momentum looked to swing its way again, Wisconsin struck the first goal of the game.
The Badgers had a shot on goal from neutral ice that turned into an easy save for Lavigne. Lavigne, instead of gloving the puck in the midst of Wisconsin players circling the net, passed out, hoping to start a fast break. The pass instead got intercepted and near the goal and a quick wrister opened the scoring for the Badgers.
Seconds after the goal, however, Michigan received its first power play, off of interference by Peter Tischke. Despite its recent success on with the man-advantage, it couldn’t convert.
6:15 left in the second, a turnover in the defensive zone set Michigan up for close-net shot. The puck had leaked out from behind the net and junior forward Will Lockwood had a clear look at the net from a pre-occupied Wisconsin goaltender. He whiffed on the shot and proceeded to commit a penalty out of frustration.
A breakaway from Michigan, however, evened the strengths as freshman forward Garrett Van Wyhe drew a hooking call right before his shorthanded shot.
The two teams traded shots but the period ended 1-0 in favor of the Badgers. Mirroring how the first period ended, Wisconsin this time committed a penalty as the period ended, allowing the Wolverines a power play to go into the third period.
The man-advantage went to waste, though, with Michigan failing to get a shot on net in the power play. Wisconsin soon received a power play of its own, but stout defensive plays from sophomore forward Dakota Raabe, including inducing a turnover in Michigan’s offensive zone, allowed for a clean penalty kill.
Halfway through the third, after numerous shot attempts, senior forward Brendan Warren skated up the offensive zone. Weaving between defenders near the boards, he passed to the center where junior forward Adam Winborg was waiting to tap home the equalizer.
“They got some young defensemen, and you want to make sure you put pressure on them. It’s not anything we wouldn’t do against anyone else, I would like to forecheck.” Pearson said. “We like to be aggressive and be in on the forecheck and I thought we did a pretty good job on that tonight, for the most part, especially in the second period, I thought we spent a lot of time in their zone.”
Despite good looks on the net, Wisconsin failed to convert the power play and the third period ended 1-1.
The overtime period began much like the game did, with an aggressive Wolverines team. A push by Michigan led to sophomore Michael Pastujov drawing a penalty for slashing. Lockwood attacked close to the net, garnering the rebound consecutively, but he failed to get past the defensive wall set by the Badgers near net.
The overtime period ended scoreless, leading to Michigan’s first double overtime of the season.
“I saw more defensive commitment,” Pearson said. “Whether it’s blocking shots, whether it’s hustling back to retrieve pucks, whether it’s our forwards coming into what we call the scoring area and doing a good job there. Breakouts were better. We just were more committed.”
In the first possession of the second overtime, freshman forward Josh Norris shot a one timer from the right circle and it hit back of the net.
“You can see the excitement and the creativity,” Pearson said, “getting your top players out there in that situation, so exciting for hockey.”