Four months. Thirty games. Zero goals.
To say Mark Mink was going through a dry spell would be an understatement. After equaling his 2001-02 total of five goals in Michigan’s first 11 games of this season, Mink hadn’t found the net since Nov. 22.
But he chose the perfect game to go on a scoring binge. Mink tallied not one, but two goals in the Wolverines’ 5-3 victory over Colorado College in the Midwest Regional Final yesterday.
Colorado College coach Scott Owens called Mink’s first goal a “backbreaker.” With the game tied 2-2 and Michigan killing a penalty in the beginning of the second period, Mink stole the puck behind the Tigers’ net, skated it out in front and jammed it between the left goalpost and a scrambling Curtis McElhinney.
“I think any time you get a shorthanded goal it kind of knocks the other team back, takes a little of their momentum away,” Michigan defenseman Andy Burnes said. “It really gives you the momentum, and it gives you a lot of stuff to build on. So that was definitely a big goal, not only for Mark Mink, but for the team.”
Mink threw his arms in the air in celebration after that goal, but he wasn’t done yet. As the final seconds of the game ticked off, he skated the puck into the Tigers’ zone and flicked the puck past a Colorado College defenseman and into the empty net at 19:42. The Wolverines on the ice mobbed Mink in the corner after he scored.
“I barely got it through (the defenseman) actually,” Mink said of his first career empty-net goal. “Time was running out, and I’ve been waiting four years to get that empty-netter. I finally got it in my last game (at Yost Ice Arena).”
The two-goal outburst gave Mink seven goals to go along with his 13 assists this season.
But offensive production is not what Mink, a scrappy two-way player, focuses on.
“I was just trying to play hard every game and just try to lead the younger guys in big games like this,” Mink said. “Work hard and good things are going to happen no matter what.”
Mink’s teammates said his solid play is often unnoticed, and they were glad to see him receive some accolades yesterday.
“What he does goes unrecognized, but he is so effective,” sophomore Eric Nystrom said. “He works hard every game, day in and day out and in practice. I think he was getting stoned a little – he was snakebitten. And you know what? It doesn’t matter what you do (in the regular season) because this is the time of year when those guys step up and score big goals.”
“It’s a storybook ending: In his last game at Yost, he scores two goals and sends us to the Frozen Four.”
Storybook, sure. But it might not be the ending for Mink. The Frozen Four will be held in Buffalo’s HSBC Arena, where Michigan played in the Xerox College Hockey Showcase in October – and where Mink scored two goals in two games.
Poise under pressure: Freshman goaltender Al Montoya was named the Midwest Regional’s Most Outstanding Player and was one of four Wolverines on the All-Regional Team. Montoya stopped 21 of Colorado College’s 24 shots, after denying all but one of Maine’s 35 shots Saturday.
“This is the time of year when you can ride a goalie or the goalie can lose it for you, and Monty has been standing on his head, making huge saves,” Nystrom said of the 18-year old netminder. “He should be in high school, yet he has played so poised. Even when he handles the puck, he’s really poised.”
Home, sweet home: Michigan is now 9-1 in NCAA Tournament games at Yost and has advanced to the Frozen Four every time it has hosted a regional. The home crowd easily drowned out the Tigers fans yesterday, but Colorado College captain Tom Preissing said it was not a big factor in the game.
“It affected us, but I don’t think this was the toughest place we’ve had to play this year,” Preissing said. “There are other teams, like North Dakota or Minnesota, that have as tough, if not tougher, environments.”
Nystrom was more impressed.
“You can’t experience it unless you’re down there,” Nystrom said. “It was so loud, just adrenaline. And my legs were shaking. I was standing on the bench, and my legs were shaking because the crowd was so loud. It was unbelievable. Unfortunately, (the Midwest Regional) can’t be here every year.”