MADISON — All Michigan needed was one win. Really, two points would’ve been enough to secure home-ice advantage for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
But in Saturday night’s game against Wisconsin (13-16-5 overall, 9-10-5-2 Big Ten), the Wolverines fell short of that goal and lost in overtime — for the second-straight night — 4-3. Now, instead of playing at home next weekend in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan (13-14-7, 9-10-5-2) will head to Minnesota.
“It’s beyond frustrating,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “I feel bad for the team. I feel bad for our fans and everyone that supports us, not to get home ice and to lose in overtime. Last night was tough, and this one is equally as tough.”
With two minutes left, the Wolverines were clinging to a 3-2 lead when Wisconsin coach Tony Granato pulled goaltender Daniel Lebedeff for an extra attacker to try to tie the game. Defenseman Ty Emberson cleaned up a rebound that bounced off junior goaltender Hayden Lavigne’s shoulder and sent it into the net.
The Badgers had a chance to end it in regulation, but Lavigne made a toe-drag save and sent the game to overtime.
Michigan dominated the first minute or so of the extra period, but it only took one shot for Wisconsin to appear to take home the win. Pearson challenged the call on the ice and the goal was overturned after a lengthy review. It only prolonged the inevitable.
“We got a second life,” Pearson said. “The first one that went in in overtime, I thought we should’ve stopped that one too, and then we got a break. I thought we took advantage of it. I thought it was going to be our time.”
On the very next shift, forward Linus Weissbach worked his way from center ice through a group of defenders. He fired a shot from the faceoff dot in the left circle that found the upper right corner of the net, winning the game for the Badgers.
“We just gave Weissbach too much room,” Pearson said. “It’s a neutral zone play, we all just sag in. Nobody went to him. It feels like we were almost shorthanded or something and then he just came in and took a step to the left and took a shot. We know he’s got a good shot, but we got to stop those.”
Added senior defenseman Joseph Cecconi: “I thought we caught a break. Next shift, they score, so it kinda just deflates everyone. … I don’t think they have home ice next round, doesn’t matter. But they pushed us out of home ice and that’s something that I really thought we would have a chance to do.”
After coming into the weekend hoping for home ice in the postseason, needing just two points to secure home ice, Wisconsin sent the Wolverines home without a point on the weekend.
“We’re not happy,” Cecconi said. “All we had to do was come in and win a game (and) we were going to have home ice. All we had to do tonight, I think, was get a point. Actually, in either game. It’s not a great mood in the locker room.”
Michigan came out on Saturday night ready to rid itself of the sour taste that came from Friday night’s overtime loss.
After a sluggish start on Friday, the Wolverines lit the lamp first on Saturday, jumping out to their first lead of the season series against the Badgers when freshman defenseman Jack Summers scored his first career goal. Sophomore forward Michael Pastujov collected the puck in the corner and passed it up the ice to a streaking Summers, who finished on a one-timer from the left circle.
But the lead wouldn’t last as Wisconsin tied the game minutes later and took the lead going into the first intermission. Junior forward Nick Pastujov ended his 14-game goal scoring drought to retake the lead for Michigan in the second period, but once Granato pulled Lebedeff, the Badgers sent the game to overtime.
It was small things that ended up being the Wolverines’ undoing. Lavigne couldn’t find the puck on the tying goal, allowing Emberson to finish the rebound into the net. In overtime, what Michigan thought would be its second chance evaporated before the Wolverines could capitalize on it.
“It’s really tough,” Pearson said. “We sort of get the reprieve on the offside goal, and we don’t take advantage of it. Tough weekend. Tough weekend of hockey. I can’t tell you that they’re that much better than us. It just — they got the bounce or the goal that they needed in both games.”