Michigan defeats No. 9 Minnesota in overtime thriller

Sam Mousigian/Daily
Buy this photo

By Jason Rubinstein, Daily Sports Editor
Published January 9, 2015

With just under 12 minutes to play in the final period, the momentum of the Michigan-Minnesota hockey game completely changed.

Seconds after the Wolverines tallied the game’s go-ahead goal, junior forward Andrew Copp lost his composure, committed a five-minute major penalty and was ejected from the game.

“We haven’t had situation like that for a while with a five-minute major,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “And obviously their power play is the real deal.”

Berenson is referring to a power-play unit that ranks as the nation’s second-best, scoring on 30 percent of its man-advantage opportunities heading into Friday. The Golden Gophers quickly displayed those skills, scoring two power play goals on the major penalty to take a 3-2 lead.

And just when it appeared all the momentum turned into Minnesota’s favor, Michigan senior forward Justin Selman found twine to knot the game at three, ultimately sending the game to overtime, where freshman defenseman Cutler Martin sniped one home en route to a 4-3 Michigan win. It all happened so fast that Martin doesn’t remember his train of thought after he scored.

“I was like ‘Whoa!,’ ” Martin said. “I got lucky or something. I was just so happy that our team won.

“This one was pretty special. Growing up you always hear ‘Minnesota’s this, Minnesota’s that.’ Well, we’re from Michigan and Michigan’s pretty dang good, right? So I was really happy to beat Minnesota. It’s one of those teams that’s always on your bucket list.”

Still, according to Berenson, Martin’s game-winning goal wasn’t the highlight of the Friday’s game. After going down 3-2, Minnesota had a glorious opportunity when Travis Boyd had a breakaway chance. Racing down the ice was freshman defenseman Zach Werenski, who, to Berenson’s surprise, managed to catch Boyd and gain control of the puck.

“Tonight the turning point of the game was when they had a breakaway and Zach Werenski caught their player,” Berenson said. “And he was on his heels and he got back — I don’t know how he did it — and he caught that player who was full speed, got his stick on the puck and a play like that could be the difference in a game and tonight it might have been.”

Added senior forward Zach Hyman: “Zach made an unbelievable play. That was huge. If they scored there, the game is pretty much over.”

It wasn’t surprising to see Michigan (2-1 Big Ten, 10-7 overall) and Minnesota knotted at one goal apiece for over 20 minutes, as Friday represented huge games for both teams. The Wolverines are still looking to pad their résumé for the NCAA Tournament, while the Gophers have now lost six of their past 11 games.

Early on, it appeared Minnesota was the hungrier team. The Golden Gophers (1-0-1, 10-5-1) struck first just five minutes into the game when Michigan junior goalie Steve Racine gave up a rebound that Connor Reilly easily tapped in. The rebound seemed uncharacteristic for Racine, who made 71 saves on 73 shot attempts in his last two starts. However, the defense didn’t do Racine any favors, allowing multiple odd-man rush opportunities.

After Minnesota controlled the game’s pace in the first period, it looked like it would do the same in the second period. Then, Hyman, who ended the game with a goal and three assists, took matters into his own hands. Two minutes into the second frame, Hyman corralled a loose puck in the neutral zone and beat Adam Wilcox on a point-blank chance.

Hyman’s goal was his 10th of the season, and he now leads the Wolverines in scoring. His tally came at a much-needed time after the Wolverines played a sloppy first period and found themselves down 1-0.

The game remained tight the rest of the way and each team had countless opportunities in the third period, but each time, Wilcox and Racine stymied the shots. But it was Hyman who changed the tides once again. Sophomore forward Tyler Motte carried the puck into the zone and found Hyman, who then slid the puck to freshman forward Dylan Larkin, who found twine on a tic-tac-toe goal.

Hyman’s production was especially crucial for the Wolverines since sophomore forward Alex Kile was a healthy scratch for a violation of team rules. Beresnon said Kile will return to the lineup Saturday.

Kile’s absence could’ve spelled doom for Michigan, as he has registered 16 points — nine goals and seven assists — thus far.

But with the Wolverines playing as well as they are, Kile’s absence didn’t sting as much.