This game played out exactly how I expected it to. From the opening puck drop the skill of Michigan went head-to-head with the physicality of Northern. The hits were heavy, bodies were flying and both goaltenders turned in excellent performances. For a Michigan-NMU game, it lived up to it's billing.
It was a scratch and claw game. The Wolverines struck first when Cutler Martin threw a puck at the net that hit a stick at the point and knuckle pucked over the shoulder of Atte Tolvanen. Northern grabbed the next two. The first on a redirect that changed direction and slid under the legs of Racine and the second on a hail mary pass from the far right side. Nolan De Jong took his eyes off his man for just a second and the puck found his guy right in front of Racine.
Tied 2-2 midway through the second the Wolverines were dealt a huge blow. Michigan was already playing without a pair of defensemen in Mike Downing and Zach Werenski when they lost Joe Cecconi to injury. Cecconi followed a puck wrapping around the boards and was hit high by Gerard Hanson, who was ejected from the game for head contact.
It turned out to be a defining moment in the game. With forwards Tyler Motte and Alex Talcott playing defense they needed Steve Racine to put on a show in net and he absolutely delivered stopping thirty five shots and letting in just two goals. When they needed him most, Racine was there with half a dozen huge saves for the Wolverines.
The Wildcats pushed hard for the lead. Their forecheck forced turnovers and they threw everything they had at Racine to no avail. That aggression eventually caught up with them and gave the Wolverines the look they wanted when Kyle Connor got outside on the rush, took the puck down the ice, wrapped around the net and ripped a puck high and by the goaltender for the game winner.
Lost in the madness, another player matched the performance of Racine.
JT Compher was spectacular. He did the things that you do to win games that don't show up in the box score; Compher was in the middle of every scrum around Steve Racine. He sacrificed his body to block shots taking a shot on the hand twice in one shift and made diving plays to get the puck out of the zone when they needed it most. It was a JT Compher kind of game.
Michigan will meet Michigan Tech in the GLI Final, Wednesday night at 7:00pm.