MADISON — Thomas Bordeleau received the pass. Thirty seconds remained in overtime.
Fearing the freshman forward’s ability to pass the puck, the Wisconsin defender laid down in the passing lane.
On a dime, Bordeleau stopped. He dragged the puck back, pulled it around the defender’s flailing stick onto his backhand and buried the shot in the top of the net.
“I just tried to read the goalie,” Bordeleau said. “ … I’ve kind of tried (that deke) before in practice, but I didn’t plan it ahead.”
The Datsyukian goal secured a dramatic 2-1 victory for the Wolverines (4-0). With Friday’s win, Michigan completed a series sweep over the Badgers (2-2) and demonstrated its own ability to respond to adversity in a number of forms — despite its youth.
“I think it’s the first weekend we’ve faced (adversity) so far,” sophomore forward Nick Granowicz said. “But we battled hard. We didn’t give up on ourselves. We stayed optimistic throughout the game, and we knew we’re gonna get our chances. We just kept playing defensively smart, and it happened for us.”
Like on Thursday, offense did not come easy for the Wolverines early on. Despite a much cleaner start and a 12-8 advantage in shots on goal, Michigan entered the first intermission locked in a scoreless tie. The opportunities were there, but it just couldn’t convert. Early in the second period, Wisconsin forward Roman Achan added more pressure with a power-play goal off a hook from freshman forward Brendan Brisson — a team leading fourth penalty for the freshman.
Right when it looked like Michigan’s frustration would keep it from pulling itself back into the game, Granowicz provided a much-needed spark. After an outside wrist shot from freshman forward Matty Beniers deflected off the pad of Badgers goaltender Robbie Beydoun, Granowicz corralled the rebound and put the puck in the net, evening up the score at one.
For the second consecutive night, excellent play from junior goaltender Strauss Mann kept Wisconsin’s offense at bay. Mann saved 22 of the 23 shots he faced, bringing his save percentage on the series to a strong .938. The Wolverines’ talent can help it withstand some offensive dry spells, but it’s made even easier with a reliable veteran goalie between the pipes.
But Michigan’s struggles weren’t over yet. Late in the third period, a pair of controversial penalties — one on Bordeleau for using his hand on a face-off, the other a trip on freshman forward Kent Johnson — put the Wolverines back on their heels. Despite a premature goal horn during the second power play, Michigan killed both penalties and forced overtime, where Bordeleau put the game on ice.
“It’s important because we’re gonna get in other games we have to kill penalties late,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “This only gives your penalty killers confidence.”
Entering Thursday night, it would have been fair to question whether Michigan’s dominant performance last weekend against Arizona State was more so a product of the Sun Devils’ talent level than the Wolverines’ own preparation.
While the Wolverines weren’t as dominant Thursday and Friday as they had been against Arizona State, the two wins demonstrated that their young talent won’t falter against tougher competition.
And the reality is, even with all that talent, Michigan probably won’t have many other blowout wins. The Big Ten is a deep conference, and the Wolverines will find themselves playing from behind more than once this season.
Of course, it helps to have players that undress goaltenders with apparent ease.