An hour before gametime, senior forward Jimmy Lambert and sophomore forward Matty Beniers warmed up on the ice. Stickhandling without their pads is a normal routine for the two of them. But after a 5-1 loss the night before, the two practiced with a sense of urgency and desire.
Following a poor performance against No. 11 Minnesota (11-7 overall, 7-3 Big Ten) on Friday night, No. 3 Michigan (12-6, 5-5) looked eager for another chance against the Gophers.
Minnesota came out swinging, pressing the Wolverines from the first puck drop. Their work paid off, scoring halfway through the first period. Passing the puck back post, a Gopher player buried it past sophomore goaltender Erik Portillo’s reach.
Multiple chances came the Wolverines’ way as freshman forward Mark Estapas earned their first goal. Drifting past the net, Estapa scored a behind the back rebound off sophomore forward Brendan Brisson’s shot.
“He’s not real fancy, he’s simple,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “He’s got a great second effort. It was a huge goal to get ahead and play with the lead.”
Less than a minute later senior forward Michael Pastujov scored a rebound himself. Michigan was in control and finally found its rhythm. And two minutes before the first period ended, Pastujov did it again. Off Beniers’s pass, Pastujov deposited the puck in the bottom corner.
Five minutes into the second period, Pastujov got his hat trick. Carrying the puck up the right wing, he toe dragged it around and through his legs. Michigan was up 4-1.
“We played a little bit more physically tonight,” Pearson said. “We got to the net, shot quickly and put more back pressure on the team. These are a lot of things we’ve talked about every day since the start of the year, but we got it tonight.”
Although the Wolverines struggled scoring on the powerplay, they continued to find goals. In the thirteenth minute of the second period, junior defenseman Jay Keranen deflected a shot in. An unlikely scorer, Keranen neted his first goal of the season and second of his career.
Rebound goals continued to dominate the stat sheet as senior forward Nolan Moyle scored at the back post after a scramble in front of the net. The third quarter ended in a five goal advantage to Michigan, leading 6-1.
The third period saw the Wolverines coast their lead but still create chances. Whether it was freshman forward Dylan Duke hitting a one timer or Pastujov dangling through the Gopher defense, Michigan kept its stride.
But Minnesota fought back, scoring a rebound itself. Still the Wolverines forced the play less and learned to execute in the final third, giving them the win on the night. Against a strong Gopher team, Michigan was able to bounce back from its first game and keep its lead.
“Coming into tonight’s game you have to have a short memory,” Pearson said. “We didn’t beat the team up after last night’s game. We didn’t want to point fingers at each other and we told the team to stick together.”
Michigan has lost the first game of a series and won the second only one other time this season. It proved its ability to adapt and learn from its mistakes. That’s something it may need to rely during tough series in the future.