Lake Superior State forward Mitch Hults headed straight for Michigan freshman goaltender Jack LaFontaine on a breakaway. He had the puck, he had speed and it looked like he had the shot — until LaFontaine backed into the post of the net with his arm tucked close. He’d caught the puck in the crook of his elbow.
It was one of many saves, but it was a save during a tie game between No. 16 Michigan (5-4-1) and the Lakers. But while that shot didn’t result in a goal for Lake Superior State, a goal by Laker forward Luke Morgan did with 2:57 left in the third. An additional empty-net goal by Lake Superior State helped decide the game 3-1 on Friday during the first of a two-game series at Yost Ice Arena.
The first period featured a sluggish performance from the offense, with the Wolverines holding onto a single shot for the majority of the period until they neared the end, where they tallied five more. Despite this, the Lakers outshot Michigan, 8-6.
“We came up pretty flat,” said senior defenseman Nolan De Jong. “We only made 12 hits in the first period, which is not an excited team from my perspective. That’s one of the things we set out to do, and when we’ve been successful this year, we’ve been physical and energetic right off the bat, and we just came out really flat.”
While Lake Superior State claimed the first period in shots, faceoffs and blocks, it emphasized Michigan’s penalty kill. De Jong racked up four minutes worth of penalties for cross checking and interference, but to no avail for the Lakers — LaFontaine ended the period with all eight saves.
Junior forward Tony Calderone was the first to find the net at the 11:51 mark in the second period, with a shot under Lake Superior State goaltender Gordan Defiel’s arm on a power play. The shot came off a pass from freshman forward Luke Martin to junior forward Dexter Dancs, who then found Calderone to the right of Defiel for a clean shot into the net.
But it only took 23 seconds for the Lakers to retaliate. Josh Nanadel secured a pass from Gus Correale and shot the puck directly behind LaFontaine to knot up the game, 1-1, with less than eight minutes left in the second period to break the tie.
Both teams picked up the pace afterwards, but neither was able to break the tie. Sophomore forward Brendan Warren and Martin both had breakaways, but neither was able to score. And despite Calderone’s power-play goal, the Wolverines weren’t able to capitalize on three additional power-play opportunities.
Michigan headed into the third period still outshot, 19-14. However, the Wolverines were able to close the shot gap and take the lead more than half of the way through. Freshman forward Will Lockwood attempted a shot from the side, but was denied by Defiel. Hults almost scored his goal, but LaFontaine was able to save it with his elbow.
However, Laker forward Luke Morgan decided the outcome with around three minutes left in the game. The goal came off a pass from J.T. Henke, and Morgan shot right behind LaFontaine for the goal.
An additional empty-net goal came from Correale with 1:03 left in the game to push the score 3-1 for the Lakers.
“I thought we were sloppy in the first period,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “I always worry about games this time of year because everyone is in a festive mood, it’s a little bit of holiday hockey. I thought we got a little bit better in the second, and then the game was on the line in the third period and we couldn’t get the goal and they did. We’ve got to be a lot better tomorrow than we were today.”