ST. LOUIS — After coming back from a two-goal deficit in the NCAA Tournament regional semifinal on Friday, it took No. 6 Michigan just 17 seconds to make the already-tense overtime period less than comfortable.
Senior forward Matt Rust was whistled for boarding just 17 seconds after the opening faceoff of the sudden-death extra frame. The penalty gave No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha its seventh power play opportunity of the game.
On Michigan’s penalty kill in overtime, freshman defenseman Jon Merrill made a sliding save in front of senior netminder Shawn Hunwick to save a Maverick goal. Seconds later, junior forward Luke Glendening laid his body out to push the puck to center ice and out of the Wolverine zone.
But the Wolverines found a way to rally during Rust’s penalty — as they did on the penalty kill the entire game — and kept the Mavericks’ man-advantage scoreless in St. Louis.
“I thought our penalty killers were a real factor in the game,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “And they’ve got a dangerous power play, obviously. And you know, you’re best penalty killer still has to be your goalie. I thought our goalie did a good job, our ‘D’ did a good job and really didn’t give them many good scoring chances on the power play. … That was a factor in the game.”
Michigan’s penalty kill is ranked 25th in the nation and has killed 151 of the 182 penalties its taken this season. Friday’s game marked the 19th time that Wolverine penalty kill has been perfect this year, as Michigan’s penalty kill stopped nine Maverick power play shots in six opportunities.
BEEN THERE BEFORE: Prior to Friday night, the Wolverines had been in seven overtime games this season, boasting a 1-4-2 record when the game goes to an extra frame.
So when the 60 minutes of regulation weren’t enough for Nebraska-Omaha and Michigan to break the 2-2 tie, the Wolverines weren’t surprised.
“We’ve been in enough overtimes as a team and a staff to know that these things can end in the first minute,” Berenson said. “And it wasn’t so good that we got a penalty literally in the first shift, but we got through that. And then we knew that we might have to play until the last minute of overtime. But it was a good feeling in the locker room. We were going together, we were positive and determined.”
After a season-ending double overtime loss to Miami (Ohio) in last year’s NCAA Tournament regional final in Fort Wayne, Ind., Michigan had some extra vengeance heading to the extra frame.
Albeit an abrupt ending, with the 3-2 overtime win over the Mavericks, Michigan secured its first NCAA Tournament overtime win since 2000 when the Wolverines defeated Colgate University 4-3.
“We have a pretty great bunch of guys here, a great bunch of seniors,” senior forward Louie Caporusso. “We don’t want our season to end, we want to go all the way. Two goals, three goals, four goals, it didn’t matter. We were going to keep going.”
NOTES: Junior defenseman Brandon Burlon did not travel with the rest of the team to St. Louis, as he is still battling the illness that kept him out of the CCHA Tournament semifinal and practice last week. … The Wolverines hold a 22-1-1 record when allowing two or fewer goals this season. … Michigan has won 10 of its last 11 games, with the only loss coming to Western Michigan last Friday in the CCHA Tournament semifinal.