MADISON –– With the score tied at four apiece in the first overtime period and a power play chance at hand, the Michigan hockey team had a prime opportunity to clinch home ice in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Instead, the Wolverines failed to convert on the power play. And seconds after the man-advantage ended, Wisconsin forward Sean Dhooghe had a breakaway opportunity –– one that would keep his own team's home-ice hopes alive.
He collected a pass near his own blue line and sprinted up the right side of the ice with a defender trailing. As he closed in on Mann, Dhooghe fired a shot stick side to net his second goal of the game, and more importantly, give the Badgers a 5-4 victory in overtime.
“We knew they were going to take chances,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “They had to. They needed to win this game to have a chance to get home ice, so they had nothing to lose by playing shorthanded and just having guys hang high. We didn’t learn from it last weekend.
“We got too caught up in the offensive side of the game and we gave up a breakaway. We gave them a couple other real good chances before that. It was just — just a total disaster that whole power play.”
Now, Michigan will need to win on Saturday, in its last game of the regular season, to secure Big Ten Tournament games at Yost Ice Arena. With three points separating the Wolverines and Wisconsin after Friday night, the Badgers can leapfrog Michigan in the standings with a victory on Saturday to clinch home ice themselves.
It took only 4:36 for Wisconsin to take the lead on Friday night when forward Seamus Malone laid the puck back to a trailing defenseman, Josh Ess, near the top of the left faceoff circle. Ess fired a wrist shot past freshman goaltender Strauss Mann to give the Badgers a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later, the Wolverines responded.
Defenseman Peter Tischke was skating behind his own net when he lost his footing and possession of the puck. Junior forward Adam Winborg capitalized on the miscue, collecting the puck and finding redshirt sophomore forward Luke Morgan open in front of the net. Morgan finished past goaltender Daniel Lebedeff to tie the game at one.
Through the first period, both sides had their opportunities on the offensive end, but each only capitalized the one time. In the second period, they found the goal with greater frequency.
Unlike in the first period, Michigan got into its offensive zone and created chances early in the period. But like the first period, Wisconsin struck first. Forward Matthew Freytag collected the rebound from his initial shot near the end line and fired a shot between his own legs towards Mann. The puck snuck past Mann to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead.
In the ensuing 54 seconds, the Wolverines poured in two goals to take a 3-2 lead.
While on a delayed penalty call, junior forward Jake Slaker collected the rebound near the left faceoff circle on a shot from senior defenseman Joseph Cecconi. He quickly fired a wrist shot past an outstretched Lebedeff to tie the game at two.
And 39 seconds later on the power play, junior forward Will Lockwood gave Michigan the lead on a one-timer off a feed from junior forward Nick Pastujov.
After quickly jumping out to their first lead in the game, the Wolverines took two penalties in 38 seconds. On the subsequent five-on-three opportunity for Wisconsin, they tied the score at three on a goal from Dhooghe.
And another defensive gaffe –– this time by the Wolverines –– allowed the Badgers to regain the lead in the period.
Nothing but open ice stood between forward Roman Ahcan and Mann when junior forward Griffin Luce turned over the puck along the left boards near center ice. Freshman defender Nick Blankenburg was able to get back into the play defensively but Ahcan deked past Blankenburg and finished five hole on Mann to take a 4-3 lead into the second intermission.
Michigan drew an early penalty to start the third period. Seconds after emerging fruitless from the man-advantage, freshman forward Jimmy Lambert skated to his right and towards the point. He fired back to his left and found twine, finishing past Lebedeff’s right shoulder to tie the game, 4-4.
“We got the lead and then right away, we take that penalty almost instantly after that. Then we take another one,” Pearson said. “We just can’t seem to have — or help ourselves or have a little bit of success when we get going. We can’t get that separation or get that next goal and consequently, we had to battle all night.”
Plenty of chances for both teams followed the early-third period goal –– none of which resulted in a goal. After a hectic final frame featuring big saves by each netminder, the game continued into overtime, where heartbreak waited for the Wolverines.