Playing at a venue that has brought nothing but the best results for his program, Michigan coach Steve Burns was adamant about ensuring everything about his team’s visit to Penn State was meticulously planned. Even the hotel accommodations were the same as last season’s when the Wolverines stormed Jeffrey Field for a postseason run.
“Our trainer (Bill Shinavier) told us that when Penn State hosted the Big Ten Tournament in 2004, we made it to the championship game,” Burns said.
That 2004 run was followed six years later when Michigan began its magnificent postseason run by sweeping the Big Ten Tournament last November. The championship game was a 4-1 victory over the host Nittany Lions (0-2, 5-3-1).
The good fortune continued Saturday night as Michigan won 2-1. Late-game heroics delivered by sophomore forward Ezekiel Harris ensured that State College was magical to Michigan one more time. Harris notched a goal with just more than minute remaining in regulation to secure the win for the Wolverines, who were in desperate need of a win after a string of crushing overtime defeats spanning the last three matches.
After a defensive struggle in the first half, Michigan (1-1-0 Big Ten, 3-7-1 overall) finally found the game’s first breakthrough in the 76th minute when junior forward Etienne Lussiez scored an unassisted goal. That gave the Wolverines an advantage in its second Big Ten contest.
The score held until the 89th minute when Penn State equalized. But it took just 18 seconds for Harris to decide that Michigan wasn’t giving this one up. With the past overtime showings, that wasn’t a path the Wolverines wanted to travel again.
“This was a tough game for us,” Burns said. “Penn State’s a tough team and they had more of the possession than we did. Whenever you can do that at an opponent’s home in the Big Ten, it just shows that you have a sense of maturity.”
Burns felt that his team played with a chip on its shoulder following last weekend’s devastating loss at Ohio State. In that game, the Buckeyes scored in the first minute of overtime to win.
“I thought we took the loss in the game against Ohio (State) well and we played with a lot of (Saturday),” Burns said. “They’ve been playing real well.”
Michigan will now break from its conference schedule on Wednesday when it faces Western Michigan at home. Big Ten play resumes Sunday when the Wolverines host Wisconsin.