MADISON — Fresh off the heels of a demoralizing loss to Wisconsin on Friday night, the No. 5 Michigan hockey team needed to rebound.
After the loss, the Wolverines discussed a need for desperation and for urgency. As freshman forward Rutger McGroarty put it, they needed to get pissed off.
It took a game-opening Badger goal, but on Saturday, Michigan (11-6-1 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) finally got pissed off. Motivated by their mistakes — of which there were plenty — the Wolverines recovered to beat Wisconsin (7-9-0, 1-7), 4-2.
“It was a good response after yesterday,” junior defenseman Jacob Truscott said. “We found a way to win. It wasn’t pretty the whole way, but it was a good job.”
Through the first eight minutes, though, a desperate response still was hard to find. Michigan struggled to break out of its defensive zone, managing just one shot in that stretch. It culminated when Badger forward Jack Horbach blasted a shot from the point, sending it through traffic and into the net.
But as the Wolverines watched teddy bears fly onto the ice, giving them extra time to stew over the goal they just conceded, it started to click. And they came back out on the ice, evidently pissed off.
Flying down the seam, McGroarty corralled a pass from sophomore defenseman Luke Hughes and fired it high blocker-side, knotting the game at one.
“We always talk about the shift after a goal, whether we score or get scored on,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said. “For us to respond it’s a big deal, just to get momentum back.”
That momentum didn’t always hold, as in their frenzied state, the Wolverines often played undisciplined. With 7 penalties and 22 resulting minutes in the first two periods alone, they consistently forced themselves to play down a man. But Michigan recognized the urgency of those situations, killing off Wisconsin’s first five opportunities.
And when Badger forward Carson Battle ripped a wrister from the slot to retake the lead halfway through the second period, the Wolverines responded once again. Fresh out of the box for an interference penalty, sophomore forward Mark Estapa buried one just inside the right post to re-tie the game.
“I don’t like to take penalties,” Estapa said. “But I just had to stay level, not get too frustrated, not lose the mentality on what matters. I just had to go out there and play my game.”
Just as it had all game, it took one final mistake to motivate Michigan to victory. With seven minutes left to play, sophomore defenseman Ethan Edwards took a tripping penalty, putting the Wolverines on the kill once again.
This time, they didn’t just kill the penalty off. Estapa careened down the ice behind freshman defenseman Luca Fantilli, potting a loose puck for the game-winning goal, his second of the night.
Estapa’s effort was a microcosm of Michigan’s game. After taking two penalties, including a ten-minute misconduct, he needed to respond. With his game-tying and game-winning goal, he rebounded in the biggest moments — just like the Wolverines did, even before McGroarty scored an empty-netter to seal the game.
“It’s just like any life lesson,” Naurato said. “When things don’t go your way, and you can pick yourself back up and keep fighting and keep playing, and then have success like Mark did, it’s a big deal.”
With that ability to pick itself up, Michigan escaped with a win and prevented a sweep.