The snow has been falling in Michigan for two days straight, as the ground turns white and the temperature turns everything to rough, patchy, and slippery ice. That didn't stop a sold out crowd from turning up to watch one of the most exciting games put on by Michigan hockey this season. It was, however, far from pretty.
With two minutes and forty-four seconds remaining in the overtime period of a game tied at three, Dylan Larkin threw a pass to the left point from the goal line, and one shot from a third-pairing defenseman later, Yost erupted.
It was Cutler Martin's turn to play hero.
"I know [Wilcox] was kind of confused," said Martin. "Larks threw the puck out to me, a Minnesota forward came out to block the puck. I had a little gap in his legs, I tried to shoot it through and it ended up going in ... this one was pretty special."
When prompted what was going through his head, Martin responded with a laugh, "I had no idea."
Suddenly, Michigan's problems on the evening seemed to have washed away, if only until tomorrow.
The Wolverines played what can honestly considered their best "worst game of the season," with the team effort and comeback built on an unsteady foundation of scrambled play in its own zone, poor defending off the rush, turnovers at all ends of the ice, and ultimately poor and inconsistent possession numbers.
Regardless of the insignificance of period-by-period possession numbers in the long run, it took the goaltending of Steve Racine to keep Michigan in the contest.
"We had to be a better team," said Martin. "We know Minnesota is a better hockey team, but we knew we could keep up with them."
The Wolverines were protecting a 2-1 lead in the third period when Andrew Copp took a major boarding penalty at 8:06, and as a result was tossed from the game. Michigan would go on to surrender two powerplay goals to Justin Kloos and Travis Boyd within a minute of each other.
It was one of the most improbable of goals, however, that would give Michigan life.
Shortly after the major penalty was killed off, and with 6:50 remaining in regulation, Michigan gained some numbers coming out of their own zone. Zach Werenski, after making an incredible defensive play to stop a Travis Boyd breakaway, sent a pass up to Zach Hyman, who powered his way down the left wing and threw a centering pass to Justin Selman, roofing his game-tying first goal of the season.
"I didn't even see the goal because I was falling into the boards," said Hyman. "I turned my head and saw the ref pointing, I saw Justin celebrating and I thought 'Wow, it went in.' It was a bit of a hope play to throw it to him but I knew somebody would be there."
"I don't know if we scored on our best chances," said Red Berenson, "it was a close game either way."
The Wolverines, who have improved to 3-1-0 in the Big Ten and 11-7-0 overall, still showed some signs of youth and therefore a lack of composure.
Michigan still, incredibly, gets flustered and almost frightened with opposing forechecks. Minnesota spent the better part of the first period throwing in two skaters to put pressure on the Michigan defense, and it worked out extraordinarily for them until Michigan pulled a complete one-eighty.
It was then the Wolverines, at the end of the second period, who had their turn at harassing the opposition in its own zone. With a barrage of shots, Michigan was able to close the shot gap to just four after a nightmarish first.
Things would get better, as the Wolverines came out flying in the second period, spending a full minute in the Minnesota zone and drawing a thunderous applause from the crowd as they fought back.
Despite its strong zone play at even strength, Michigan would score off of the rush.
Like a stroke of magic, Cutler Martin took an errant pass from Tyler Motte, and outletted it to Zach Hyman who drove the right wing, pulled the puck to his backhand, and potted it passed Adam Wilcox to knot the game at one early in the second period.
Michigan's powerplay, which has been mediocre at best this year, clicked to start the third period as Dylan Larkin finished a tic-tac-toe goal from Tyler Motte and Zach Hyman.
"In the GLI, [Hyman] and Copp and Alex Kile carried the team in the GLI with Racine in goal," said Berenson, who continues to almost blush over the stellar senior campaign of Hyman.
Kile sat out tonight for violating team rules. He will be back in for the second game.
The first period, containing mostly Minnesota chances, resulted in only one goal from Connor Reilly off of a rebounded shot from the right point, which beat Steve Racine cleanly from the left circle.
The four players returning from the GLI, according to Berenson, didn't miss a step in their return to the lineup. Dylan Larkin, who had the most impressive tournament of the four, didn't surprise Berenson in the least with his stellar play.
It's strong praise from the coach who has the chance to record career coaching win number 800 tomorrow afternoon.
By the Numbers, Advanced Stats:
|CF: Michigan||CF: Minnesota||FF - Mich||FF - Minn|
(Period one on top, OT fourth row, game totals in bold)