STATE COLLEGE — Through the first two periods of Saturday’s game, the No. 1 Michigan hockey team looked like it had wholeheartedly avenged its series-opening loss to Penn State. With great goaltending from junior Noah West and a solid night on offense, the Wolverines held a comfortable 3-0 lead and seemed poised to leave State College with a meaningful win.
But hockey games aren’t played in two periods; they’re played in three.
After breaking through their Friday struggles in the first two frames, the Wolverines’ (8-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) efforts fell apart as they blew a 3-0 lead in the last eight minutes of the game. The Nittany Lions (9-1, 1-1) rallied on the back of a raucous crowd, but Michigan escaped with an overtime win, 4-3, thanks to a clutch goal by freshman Adam Fantilli.
“It wasn’t that we didn’t do it the last eight minutes but the first 52 minutes like we just really played winning hockey and won all the races and battles,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said. “We played our game. Penn State’s a good team, it’s a tough building to play in.”
For those 52 minutes, the Wolverines built plenty of momentum to warrant a win. Sophomore forward Mackie Samoskevich wired a power play snipe midway through the first, and his first power play unit skated down afterward to fist bump West. After giving him no goals in support the night before, they made a concerted effort to give him a lead. It soon grew to three by the end of the second period thanks to goals by freshman forward TJ Hughes and another tally by Samoskevich.
But the Nittany Lions were previously undefeated for a reason. They excel at crashing the net and finding loose pucks, ones they feasted on during that final eight minute comeback. As the Wolverines lagged through the start of the third period — getting outshot 14-3 in the whole third period — the ingredients for a Penn State comeback were in play. All that recipe needed was a spark.
And when forward Tyler Paquette banged in a rebound try, he lit the match.
“We were kind of telling each other on the bench that ‘it’s gonna come, it’s gonna come’ so we tried not to change anything throughout the game,” forward Xander Lamppa said. “Eventually (Paquette) kind of had a wide open net and that kind of sparked the rest of the team for the whole third period run.”
With that third period comeback in motion, the crowd erupted. A deluge of chants rained down on West, and it felt like a completely different atmosphere than the previous 52 minutes. Moments later, forward Kevin Wall cut the lead to one goal as the puck bounced onto his stick for an opportune shot. Finally, that lead dissolved entirely when Lamppa buried the game-tying goal.
With the wound of that blown lead still raw, Michigan very well could’ve lost entirely once overtime started. But instead, it regained its composure.
That set the scene for freshman forward Adam Fantilli to play hero in overtime. Finding himself alone down low, he ripped a low wrist shot toward Penn State goaltender Liam Souliere that barely trickled past the goal line. Michigan won the game, but it felt more like an escape than a triumph.
Still, it seemed to be a positive result compared to Friday’s effort.
“I thought our team responded well after yesterday,” junior defenseman Jacob Truscott said. “It’s a big step for our team, you know you can respond to adversity like that. I think everyone did a good job collectively.”
But that good job could’ve been an emphatic win over a team that completely bullied the Wolverines the night before. Instead, a late collapse turned their efforts into an ugly overtime escape.