DETROIT –– It was a sight all too familiar for the Michigan hockey team.
For the sixth time in their last eight games, the Wolverines (6-7-5 overall, 2-4-4-2 Big Ten) were playing overtime hockey.
This time, the winner was decided in a shootout, after a 2-2 tie in regulation.
And like Michigan’s last two shootout stints, they emerged on the losing end when Michigan Tech scored in the fifth round to secure their place in the GLI Tournament Championship Game.
It was the Huskies who struck early to open up scoring in the first period.
An interference penalty by junior forward Will Lockwood resulted in a power play for Michigan Tech just 19 seconds into the game. Forward Alec Broetzman set up outside the crease, just to the right of freshman goaltender Strauss Mann, when he received the puck from behind the net. The freshman quickly flicked the puck into the top of the net, over Mann’s right shoulder to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Michigan looked sloppy to start the game. Though they out-skated the Huskies, the Wolverines were unable to create quality chances, including on their first power play which came 3:36 into the first period.
There were several instances throughout the period in which Michigan attackers were able to skate past the defense but failed to capitalize on the opportunity –– losing the puck in the offensive zone or getting their shot attempts saved. They controlled the pace and possession, though, as most of Michigan Tech’s opportunities early in the game came on breakaways.
The Wolverines were able to get on the board six minutes into the second period. Freshman forward Nolan Moyle collected the puck on a breakaway. After getting his initial shot blocked, the puck hit off a defenseman’s skate and snuck past goaltender Robbie Beydoun to knot the score at 1.
Just over a minute later, the Huskies jumped back on top.
Forward Brian Halonen skated toward the right slot, wrapped around the net and drifted towards the slot unguarded. He fired a shot to the left of Mann which took a deflection off senior defenseman Joseph Cecconi’s leg and bounced into the net to regain the lead, 2-1.
About 30 seconds later, Michigan Tech was on the power play and looked to extend its lead even more. Michigan, though, looked strong on the penalty kill and kept the deficit at one.
Just minutes after killing the power play, the Wolverines had a prime opportunity to tie the game on a power play of their own. Though it was the best the power play had looked up until that point, they were unable to score.
Then, with two minutes remaining in second period, Michigan found twine.
A wrist shot from the left point by freshman defenseman Nick Blankenburg took a deflection off junior forward Adam Winborg and trickled past Beydoun to tie the game up entering the final period.
In the third period, the Huskies’ scrappy play continued to thwart the Wolverines’ scoring chances, deflecting passes and tangling up sticks.
Michigan’s best chance to score in the period came with four minutes remaining when Lockwood sprinted out to a breakaway with only the goaltender to beat. He skated up the right side of the ice towards the net, tried to finish backhand, but got stuffed by Beydoun.
“We’re really struggling to score goals right now,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “So, you almost have to be perfect defensively.”
Added Cecconi: “We put up a ton of shots, but the goaltender was good. They play a good structured defense. It doesn’t matter how many shots you put on net. We have to find a way to score pretty soon here or we’ll continue to play these 2-2 overtime games, shootouts, things like that and that’s not the way you want to end a game –– in a shootout.”
Neither side was able to find the back of the net in the third period, and the game went into overtime tied at two.
The score remained even throughout overtime as the Wolverines recorded two shots on goal compared to four for Michigan Tech.
It seemed as though Michigan had broken through when junior forward Jake Slaker scored in the third round of the shootout. Forward Jake Lucchini responded, though, to extend the shootout. The winner was finally decided in the fifth round when forward Tommy Parrottino fired a wrist shot past Mann to win the game.
The Wolverines will now play in the third-place game tomorrow against the winner of Michigan State and Lake Superior State.