With 3:38 left in the third period, the Michigan hockey team found itself deadlocked in a 3-3 tie with No. 5 Minnesota.
But just a few moments later, senior forward Evan Allen broke the tie with his sixth goal of the season.
The crowd at Yost Ice Arena flew onto their feet as they had moments earlier, when freshman forward Jake Slaker had scored to tie up the game. But this time, with Allen’s goal, Michigan had the lead — and it wouldn’t lose it.
The goal, along with a late empty-netter from freshman forward Will Lockwood, allowed the Wolverines (3-11-2-2 Big Ten, 10-17-3 overall) to surpass the Gophers at Yost Ice Arena on Friday in a 5-3 win. Michigan will face Minnesota (12-4-0, 21-9-2) again on Saturday.
The first goal of the game came at the hands of Minnesota forward Taylor Gammarata on a power play. A minute into junior forward Tony Calderone’s hooking penalty, Gopher forward Leon Bristedt secured the puck and sent it to Gammarata, who was waiting on the doorstep. With a quick shot, Gammarata staked Minnesota to a one-goal lead with 6:49 left in the first period.
With just 29 seconds remaining in the frame, Gopher forward Rem Pitlick increased the lead to 2-0 with a quick rebound.
“We’ve played a lot of games this year where we’ve given up goals in the first period, so I don’t think that really rattled us,” said senior goaltender Zach Nagelvoort. “I think our team three months ago might have had more of an issue with that.
“I think we’ve grown as a group and we’re at the point now where, yeah, they had two funky bounces — one power play and one that was just like a crazy bat-out of-the-air goal — so we felt pretty good about the first period. … We were just focused on having a better twenty, eliminating those little slip-ups that allowed them to have those two bounces.”
A snipe from senior forward Alex Kile was all it took to put Michigan back in the game. At 3:42 into the second period, the puck landed in Kile’s hands courtesy of senior forward Max Shuart, and he put it away to land Michigan on the scoreboard.
With 5:33 remaining in the frame, the Wolverines gained a chance to tie the game as Minnesota forward Ryan Collins was penalized for slashing. And with 33 seconds left of the penalty, they did just that.
Junior defenseman Sam Piazza sent the puck to Kile, who was waiting near a faceoff dot. He capitalized on the chance, shooting the puck toward the net, where Calderone was waiting to deflect it behind Gopher goaltender Eric Schierhorn for a power-play goal.
“I thought (Kile’s goal) was a huge goal for our team,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “(Kile) scored a big goal and then he set up a big goal for Tony Calderone. I thought that was a real hockey play. … That got us back in the game.”
For the remainder of the second period, both teams battled for another goal to break the tie, but neither was able to score. Lockwood found an opportunity with 18 seconds left, but Gopher defenseman Jack Sadek hooked him to prevent a goal, earning a penalty in the process.
A scuffle at the end of the second period landed senior defenseman Nolan De Jong and Minnesota defenseman Ryan Lindgren in their respective penalty boxes as well, giving Michigan a man advantage headed into the third.
The advantage was wasted, though, and both teams found themselves battling out a 2-2 tie early in the third period.
In the final stretch, Gopher forward Vinni Lettieri found the crossbar of Nagelvoort’s net, and the puck reached inside just far enough before bouncing out to secure the lead for Minnesota once more.
Then Slaker capitalized on a power-play opportunity to tie the game back up one final time, and the two teams were left to battle it out once more.
Allen’s goal finally determined the outcome with 2:11 left in the game, when he tipped the puck behind Schierhorn. With such a small window of chances before the regular season ends — Saturday’s contest with the Gophers and a series against Penn State next weekend — two consecutive wins against ranked Big Ten opponents could be a dose of momentum for the Big Ten Tournament in a couple of weeks.
“This game is special,” Allen said. “Coming back from a No. 5 team in the country … (is) good, but we’ve got to keep that going into tomorrow night.”