We've seen this story play out dozens of times. A team that's just better in all three zones dominates a game, but the other team hangs around and they scratch and claw to stay in the game until finally a quick counter or an opportunistic bounce halts the momentum and finds the back of the net.
What we're not used to seeing is Michigan being on the scraping end, but this team has changed their game and their mentality since the GLI when they ground out an improbable win over Michigan Tech and a heavyweight bout against the Spartans the next day.
The Gophers came to Yost and took over from the opening puck drop. They were a stride faster in the neutral zone, covered all their assignments in the defensive end and in the offensive zone the gameplan was fantastic. The Gophers made getting pucks through traffic a point of emphasis and they feasted on rebounds as seemingly every shot from the blueline made it's way to Steve Racine.
At the 5 minute mark of the second period, Michigan recorded just their 10th shot but the game was tied 1-1 thanks in large part to spectacular goaltending from Steve Racine and a brilliant stretch pass from Cutler Martin, splitting the Gophers neutral zone alignment and springing Zach Hyman for a breakaway.
Playing without linemate Alex Kile, Zach Hyman would put the team on his shoulders, taking over the game by scoring the first goal and setting up Justin Selman's goal, Dylan Larkin's tying goal and the final game winning goal in overtime. When they needed it most, Hyman delivered one of the best games he's played as a Wolverine and added to an already impressive senior season.
Even with the offensive heroics, Steve Racine had to be the best player on the ice for the Wolverines and he didn't disappoint, holding the Gophers to one goal until Copp's major and keeping them in the game after Minnesota took the lead. Since getting the start against Tech in the GLI, Racine is 3-0-0 with a 953 SV%.
In the end, Cutler Martin would be the difference when Hyman came around the net and put a shot wide, Dylan Larkin picked the puck out of the corner and flung it at traffic in front. Through four Gophers the puck would find it's way off the stick of Vinni Lettieri and dribble to Martin, who made snapped a wrister passed Adam Wilcox for the game winner.
Scoring the game winning goal will get plenty of well deserved attention, but Cutler Martin has been an unsung hero for the blueline this season since being inserted into the lineup against New Hampshire. He's physical in the defensive end, smart in the neutral zone and seems to have a niche for scoring goals in key situations.
Down and out a month ago, this team has clawed it's way back into the postseason picture.
Up Next: Michigan goes for the sweep today at 4pm