NEW YORK, NY – A huge sigh of relief washed over Michigan fans in attendance, as a tumultuous day of sports at Madison Square Garden all but concluded when JT Compher dangled around two defenders to throw a pass to Tyler Motte. Motte scored to claim a two goal lead en route to another third period scoring frenzy and a Michigan basketball/hockey sweep at Madison Square Garden.
Although Michigan hockey didn’t enjoy a sellout crowd its basketball brethren had earlier today, the marquis of a prime time game at Madison Square Garden all-but highlighted the issues hidden by the nation’s leading offense.
The wheels looked to have came off when Nolan De Jong let David Goodwin sneak in front of the net for an easy tip-in off of the centering bass by Vince Pedrie to tie the score at the end of the first period. Eventually, after going back and forth the entire evening, Michigan received a go-ahead goal on a one-timer by Justin Selman, set up by Tony Calderone muscling the puck to the front of the net.
As usual with the Wolverines, it took some third period magic to get through the Nittany Lions. There were a ton of lackadaisical moments on defense, with most of the first two periods spent puck chasing in the defensive zone. At times, all five skaters were deep in the zone, allowing Penn State to cycle the puck at will to the point and along the half boards.
Even though Michigan surrendered three goals, it managed to keep offensive pace with Penn State until the third period. The first tally of the final frame came when Sam Piazza cut to the middle of the ice to feed Boo Nieves for Michigan’s game-tying third goal. It was a goal that will satisfy hockey purists aplenty, with a one timer off of the stick of a Rangers prospect scoring on that of an Islanders goaltending prospect in (potentially) his future arena. The flood gates were opened for the Wolverines.
"I didn't think we tested their goalie too much until the third period," said Berenson. "It's a lot more fun playing the game when you're playing with the puck, and we had the puck more in the third than we did in the rest of the game."
Tyler Motte would padd the CCM line's stats with two more goals to close out the third period, proving once again that Michigan can outscore its systemic issues, for now.
"Our team is finding a way ... and now we're getting contribution from other guys," said Red Berenson. "I think that we're just proving that we're a top ten team in the country."
To the bullets:
- Michigan still has a ton of work to do on defense if it wants to go anywhere this Spring. They can’t defend in the zone, they can’t defend off the rush, they can’t clear rebounds away from Steve Racine, they can’t do anything. It’s a coach’s nightmare.
- Steve Racine saw four three-on-ones against through his mask Saturday. To say it must have been a nightmare is an understatement.
- Michigan special teams are still showing their strength. JT Compher paired with
- The CCM line is still extraordinary. Despite Michigan’s stellar offense, they’re easily one of the top lines in the NCAA. Kyle Connor playing either side on the wall is dangerous against any defense.
- Michigan largely kept all five of its players below the faceoff circle in its own zone, with at least one or two players chasing the puck at all times. By the middle of the third period, it realized its wasn’t working, and started to keep the left wing high in the zone. That adjustment should come much earlier
- Justin Selman played center Saturday for the first time this year, as Berenson was looking for some experience down the middle. Selman played center in youth hockey, but it's still obvious that Michigan misses Cooper Marody
- Tyler Motte "might have cut his lip and chipped a tooth" after taking a scary elbow to the face late in the third, but he is healthy.
- For all of the wonky experiments the coaching staff tried with JT Compher last year on wing, he's found his home as the first-line center and is reaping the rewards. He recorded two more points at the Garden. Speaking of that line...
- Kyle Connor now leads the NCAA in scoring, with 42 points and 20 goals in 23 games. JT Compher is tied for fifth with 36 points and 9 goals, and Tyler Motte has 22 goals (most in NCAA) to go with his 35 points. The closest player on the Wolverines' roster is Alex Kile, who has 21 points and nine goals. Michigan doesn't win very many games without this astounding first line.
- Dylan Larkin broke the NHL All Star Skills Competition record as fastest skater in Nashville. Imagine if he were still on this roster.