Michigan's offense rolls, captures victory against Golden Gophers
Thirty seconds had ticked off the clock at Yost Ice Arena, and the game was already tied at one.
Welcome to Michigan hockey.
The Wolverines opened the scoring 16 seconds into the frame, when junior forward Tyler Motte fired a slap shot into the bottom-right corner of the net. It was a start Michigan only could have dreamed of in its rematch with Minnesota — the team that dashed the Wolverines’ hopes of making the NCAA Tournament last March.
But their excitement was short-lived.
Just 14 seconds later, Minnesota forward Hudson Fasching responded with a goal of his own to even the score at one.
From there, the scoring continued like it has all year at Yost Ice Arena, as No. 9 Michigan cruised to an 8-3 victory against Minnesota behind a three-goal surge in the second period.
“(The scoring), it’s not all confidence,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We’re putting our chances in. Sometimes it goes in too easy, and maybe this was one of those nights. (Minnesota) will be better tomorrow, and we have to be better. We have to go home now and put this game behind us, which is hard to do because everybody is going to be talking to our players about how good they were.
“You know tomorrow is gonna be a different game, so we have to be ready.”
Thanks to sophomore forward Dexter Dancs — who picked up a loose puck after a scrum in front of the net and found twine from the top of the crease 6:30 into the first frame — the Wolverines (2-0-1-1 Big Ten, 9-2-3 overall) ended the first period with a 2-1 advantage.
After Dancs’ finish, the frame was surprisingly quiet compared to its opening.
Michigan effectively prevented Minnesota from setting up in the offensive zone, limiting the Golden Gophers (2-1-0-0, 6-8-0) to just four shots.
The handful of times that Minnesota did have an opportunity to establish itself, though, the Golden Gophers looked dangerous — passing well and getting quality shots on junior goaltender Zach Nagelvoort.
Nagelvoort was good enough throughout the game for Michigan to hold down the victory, accumulating 22 saves on 25 shots. At times, the netminder committed costly turnovers and made questionable decisions. But he conceded only one goal in the first 10 minutes of the second period, when Minnesota peppered the net with shots.
The Golden Gophers opened the frame with newfound energy and buried the equalizing goal off the stick of forward Tyler Sheehy.
The Wolverines ensured that energy wouldn’t last too long.
Michigan responded with three unanswered goals, the first of which came in a spectacular fashion from senior center Boo Nieves.
Nieves picked up the puck at the defensive blue line and went on a tear down the ice, leaving Minnesota defensemen dumbfounded in his wake. The veteran deked three Golden Gophers before finishing it over goaltender Eric Schierhorn’s shoulder to give the Wolverines a 3-2 lead.
“That was huge,” Berenson said. “It’s an individual effort, but when (Nieves) got through their defense and scored, you could just feel that pick our team up. Sure enough, we scored the next shift, and away we went.
“I have always thought he’s a better player than he thought he was, and I think he’s gonna live up to my expectations.”
After Nieves’ one-man show, freshman forward Kyle Connor buried Minnesota in an even deeper hole. The rookie tacked on a goal of his own just 15 seconds after Nieves did by putting a rebound from junior forward Tyler Motte’s shot into the net.
Connor wouldn’t be stopped there, either, as he lit the lamp for the second time just over three minutes later.
After allowing his fifth goal of the night, Schierhorn was replaced by sophomore Nick Lehr. Roughly two minutes after the change, Fasching finally stopped the bleeding for Minnesota, scoring his second goal of the night to cut Michigan’s lead to two.
Though the Golden Gophers suffered the same fate as most teams do when faced with stopping the Wolverines’ explosive offense, they did improve offensively in the second frame themselves — outshooting Michigan 11-9.
But that was simply a consolation prize for Minnesota, as the two-goal deficit was the closest the Golden Gophers came for the rest of the contest.
Motte and junior center Max Shuart rubbed salt in Minnesota’s wound 2:44 and 13:51 into the third period, respectively. The pair combined to score the Wolverines’ first two goals of the frame, before Connor completed his hat trick with 3:10 left on the clock.
The Golden Gophers entered Yost Ice Arena having ended Michigan’s season in the Big Ten Tournament last year. And the Wolverines had to wait eight months to get what they have wanted since that moment.
“It’s tough not making the tournament since we’ve been here,” Nieves said. “But this season’s definitely looking up, and we want to keep it going.”
And behind the offense that just keeps on scoring, Michigan gave itself a new memory of the Golden Gophers it is sure to be fond of.