After 40 minutes of play, Michigan (7-8-6) and Merrimack (6-15-1) were deadlocked at one goal apiece. Forward Derek Petti was able to break the stalemate with a goal just seconds into the third period that allowed the Warriors to take the lead.
“We talk about our freshmen, there’s no freshmen anymore,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “Once Christmas rolls around, they’ve played enough games, they understand the systems now, they understand how hard it is to score and be a good player at this level. With that in mind, someone referred to them as the fourth line, I said, ‘they’re not our fourth line.’ … they’re only going to get better moving forward.”
Cecconi had only anticipated an icing pass down ice, going as far as telling junior Jake Slaker to go for the breakaway right before the play. But instead, the goal was scored and in turn, lit the spark in a team that had spent the majority of the game defending its own zone, and sent the Wolverines on their way to a 4-2 win.
A year before Michigan Stadium set a record by holding 104,173 screaming hockey fans, and more than eight years before Michigan and Notre Dame drop the puck at Notre Dame Stadium this Saturday, the prospect of Michigan successfully holding the “Big Chill at the Big House” against Michigan State was, quite literally, on thin ice.
Entering the second half of the season, Michigan is now 28th in the PairWise Rankings. Though it is not the exact method by which the 16 teams will be selected for the NCAA Tournament, it shows that the Wolverines currently sit on the outside looking in.
Neither team would give up an edge, throwing bodies in front of shots and scrapping for every loose puck in the third period. With the game remaining tied at 2, Michigan went into its seventh overtime in the past nine games.
The same continued in the overtime period, and the game ended in a tie.
Instead of upperclassmen, it was a pair of freshmen that stepped up in place of the sophomores. Defenseman Nick Blankenburg and forward Nolan Moyle both recorded points for the Wolverines when they opened up the GLI Tournament against Michigan Tech with a shootout loss.
For the sixth time in their last eight games, the Wolverines (6-7-1 overall, 2-4-4-2 Big Ten) were playing overtime hockey. The winner was decided in a shootout, in which Michigan Tech emerged victorious, 3-2, after five rounds.
Sunday, for the first time in his tenure as head coach of the Wolverines, Mel Pearson will face off against the only other college team he has ever known in the first round of the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament (GLI).
When Pearson first started recruiting Gingell, he was impressed with the young player’s attitude. And throughout his junior career, Gingell continued to display the attitude that caught Pearson’s eye. It was one of the biggest reasons Pearson gave Gingell the chance to come to Michigan with him.