Wolverines split series with No. 5 Minnesota

Saturday, March 4, 2017 - 10:55pm

Junior forward Tony Calderone plays in a game against Ohio State at the Value City Arena in Columbus on February 25.

Junior forward Tony Calderone plays in a game against Ohio State at the Value City Arena in Columbus on February 25. Buy this photo
Claire Meingast/Daily

With just over three minutes left in the third period, freshman goaltender Hayden Lavigne skated towards Michigan’s bench. Senior forward Alex Kile took his place, jumping onto the ice and heading toward Minnesota’s defensive end to give the Wolverines a man-advantage.

It was a last-ditch effort for the Michigan hockey team, as it trailed 3-1 during the final stretch of its second game against No. 5 Minnesota. But despite the last-ditch efforts from the Wolverines, they wouldn’t close the deficit. Instead, the Golden Gophers scored an additional empty-net goal.

With the final goal, Michigan (4-12-2-2 Big Ten, 11-18-3 overall) fell to Minnesota on Saturday in the second game of a home series at Yost Ice Arena, 4-1. The Wolverines split the series with the Golden Gophers (13-5-0, 22-10-2) after recording a win Friday, 5-3.

“We didn’t figure our game out quickly enough,” said senior defenseman Nolan De Jong. “Yesterday, we definitely didn’t like our start but we liked the way we came out in the second and third. We ended the game really well tonight, but it was the first 40 minutes that kind of bit us at the end of the day. (Lavigne) did a great job of keeping us in it, keeping it within a couple goals, but I think we just couldn’t figure ourselves out quickly enough.”

The beginning of the first period was chopped up into penalties, as five were tallied within a 13-minute span. Despite the early back-and-forth play as a result of power plays and penalty kills, neither team was able to capitalize on an opportunity to put itself on the scoreboard.

But with 4:35 remaining in the first period, Minnesota forward Rem Pitlick was able to do just that on a Michigan turnover. Forward Tyler Sheehy sent the puck from behind Lavigne’s left to Pitlick, who was waiting in front of the net to finish it off.

Sophomore forward Cooper Marody was almost able to tie the score when he sent in a rebound that bounced off Golden Gopher goaltender Eric Schierhorn. But the goal was waived off, as Schierhorn had been down on the ice, and the Wolverines remained scoreless headed into the second period.

“The mentality was, ‘Hey, we need to play better. We’re still in this game, it’s a one-goal game.’ We’re still in the game even though the shots were lopsided,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We knew that we could play better than we were playing, but you just don’t turn a switch on. Our team is trying and they’re playing, but they weren’t playing with enough of an edge, they weren’t playing with enough a bite and we were chasing them around."

Both teams knocked down the number of penalties they were taking in the second period — only recording coincidental minors for roughing with 1:08 left — and in their place, three goals were scored throughout the frame.

The first came 11:55 into the period when Gopher forward Tyler Sheehy beat Lavigne on a pass from forward Justin Kloos. An additional goal from forward Leon Bristedt three minutes later pushed the score to 3-0 in favor of Minnesota.

The Wolverines finally landed themselves on the scoreboard when junior forward Tony Calderone beat Schierhorn with the assistance of Marody to cut the deficit to 3-1 heading into the third period. Up until that point, Lavigne faced 31 shots, while Schierhorn saw just 17.

Almost halfway into the third period, after a Minnesota power play ended, Marody again almost capitalized on a chance to decrease the deficit. Freshman forward Nick Pastujov had just returned to the ice after serving a penalty for having too many men on the ice, and sent the puck to Marody. But Schierhorn was there to stuff the shot, and the score remained at 3-1.

And despite the Wolverines’ last-minute efforts, the only other goal that would be scored was an empty-netter at the hands of Sheehy, ending Michigan’s series with Minnesota in a split with the 4-1 loss.

“They’re one of the most skilled teams in the country and I don’t know if we respected that as much as we needed to,” Calderone said. “I think we needed to lay bodies early and set the tone, but I think we were a little lackadaisical today off the start and they capitalized.”