Michigan Hockey: Minnesota Sweeps the "Wolves"?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan lays a huge egg against Penn State last weekend, and then follows up with a sweep by the Gophers.

Friday, Minnesota 5 - Michigan 3

Michigan went on the road for the second straight weekend and had a tough time of it. After a poor showing in the second game against Penn State last weekend, Red Berenson made a change going into the Minnesota series and started Steve Racine in place of Zach Nagelvoort on Friday night. It did not start the way Berenson, or Michigan fans, had hoped.

Just five and a half minutes into the first period, Minnesota's Justin Kloos scored on a wrister that got past Racine's stick-side, ricocheted off the post and into the net for Minnesota's first score of the game. Hudson Fasching put the Gophers up 2-0 just 1:19 into the second frame on a 1-on-2 "breakaway", putting the puck right through Racine's 5-hole.

On a sick no-look backhand assist by JT Compher, Michigan was finally able to get a red lamp off Andrew Copp's one-timer PP goal at 9:45 into the second period to get within one goal of the Gophers. Of course Minnesota then scored immediately off the ensuing faceoff to get the margin back to two goals, because Michigan hockey can't have nice things.

Michigan tried to score on two other looks in the second period that just weren't going to get any better. First, with just over 15 minutes to go, Copp had a beautiful breakaway situation; Adam Wilcox came about a mile out of the net for the poke check, missed, but Jake Parenteau slid on the ice to block the shot. As the puck rebounded off the boards and back to Copp, Derek DeBlois was standing in front of the wide open net, which was just waiting to accept the galvanized rubber. However, Minnesota's Seth Ambroz got his stick in the puck's path to deflect it at just the right moment. The second opportunity came with 5:35 to go when a Derek DeBlois shot bounced off the shoulder of Adam Wilcox, rolled down his back and landed on the goal line. After checking the video, the officials called no-goal since the entire puck didn't cross the line.

Just six seconds into a Minnesota power play, and just after a Steve Racine save while sitting on his ass, Seth Ambroz knocked a redirected shot past Racine to put Minnesota up 4-1. The game was all but sealed. Sure, Compher was able to add a power play goal of his own shortly after the Minnesota goal, and Zach Hyman put another shot in the net on the failed poke-check by Wilcox to get the score to 4-3, but the one-goal game still felt beyond Michigan's reach. The Wolverines haven't been able to score more than three goals against any team with an elite defense. In fact, the Michigan offense has hit a lull since the GLI, averaging only 2.4 goals per game. Prior to the GLI, they were averaging 3.2 goals per game.

The capper came when Tyler Motte lost his stick and couldn't get the clear. Minnesota's Connor Reilly executed a pretty spinning assist to Gabe Guertler, who put the final nail in the Michigan coffin.

Saturday, Minnesota 4 - Michigan 1

Andrew Sinelli scored first for the Wolverines, giving them the early 1-0 lead about 90 seconds into the first period, aaaaaaaaand that was the end of the good news for Michigan.

Then the Gophers scored four unanswered goals to complete the sweep of #10 Michigan. The first goal coming with just over two minutes to go in the first period, off a Kyle Rau shot rebounded and was there for Sam Warning to get the goal. Connor Reilly got into the action for Minnesota, ripping one from the top of the face off circle and going glove side high on Steve Racine (who started in place of Zach Nagelvoort for the second game in a row).

Michigan was getting good looks at the goal, but as with the Penn State series, they just couldn't get that puck in the net. A lot of credit needs to be given to Minnesota goalie, Adam Wilcox; the kid is probably the best goalie in the country right now. He was all over the ice and stopping Michigan's chances at every turn.

Nate Condon then launched a rocket at the 15:20 mark of the 2nd. Justin Selman was unable to block the supersonic shot that went top-shelf. It was shortly after this point that I noticed that the FOX announcer, Doug McLeod, had the tendency to keep calling Michigan the "Wolves". Since the wife and kids were out doing wife and kid things, I decided to turn McLeod's mistakes into my own private drinking game; I'm a lightweight, so he didn't have to screw up too much more to make a big impact. Over on The Daily Gopher's game thread, someone else also noted that McLeod had called Minnesota's Seth Ambroz "Tom".

With Minnesota being up 3-1 and Michigan obviously frustrated with not being able to generate any goals, things got dirty. Freshman defenseman Michael Downing took a cheap shot with his shoulder/elbow to the head of the Gophers' Kyle Rau. Downing was ejected with a game misconduct penalty for the second time in the series, so he should probably expect a one game ban from the league.

On the subsequent Minnesota PP, Hudson Fasching put Minnesota up 4-1 and increasing Michigan's frustrations. Minnesota coach Don Lucia felt that Michigan's backup goalie stuck his pad out over the boards to deflect a puck at one point. And then with 5:22 to go in the game, Andrew Sinelli took a cheap shot on Minnesota's Justin Kloos after the whistle, giving him a crosscheck straight to the throat. I love hard hits and aggressive play, but it has to be controlled; Michigan clearly lost control toward the end of this game. Needless to say, the rematch in March is going to be one hell of a series.

Next for Michigan is a rematch against Penn State at Yost on February 21 and 22 at 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Television coverage will be on BTN and FOX Sports Detroit.

Minnesota gets a week off and then welcomes Penn State to Mariucci on February 28 and March 1; coverage will be on BTN and NBC Sports.

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