It was a tail of two different games, as the Michigan hockey team split the series with Minnesota over the weekend.
In a series that figured to be a high scoring affair, it was the Golden Gophers that got off to a strong start in front of the opposing fans at Yost Ice Arena. Michigan got behind early on Friday night and couldn’t dig itself out of a huge deficit, eventually losing 5-1. Minnesota came out and threw haymakers at Michigan from the opening period. The Wolverines’ defense nearly got burned a couple of times on some bad pinches until it finally hurt them in 2-on-1 transition leading to the game’s opening goal from Minnesota’s Brock Faber.
The bad pinches, combined with Minnesota’s heavy forechecking approach on Michigan’s defense, lead to a D-zone turnover that essentially put the game out of reach after the first 20 minutes. Michigan struggled with handling its forecheck and couldn’t get pucks out of its own zone when it had chances too.
Minnesota’s fourth goal came off a clean Michigan faceoff win in its own zone and after a failed clearing attempt by Owen Power (granted the puck took a bad bounce of the glass), the puck went right to Blake McLaughlin who started and ended the play after being set up by Sammy Walker. That essentially killed any momentum the Wolverines had.
The one highlight of Game 1 was Noah West and his goaltending debut for the Wolverines. In the 3rd period, he stopped all eight shots he faced. The loan Michigan goal came from Thomas Bordeleau on an assist from Ethan Edwards and Michael Pastujov. Bordeleau added his sixth goal of the season, giving him 18 points on the year.
The Wolverines had to play better in Game 2, and they did not disappoint with a big 6-2 victory. With the Big Ten Championship football game playing on the Jumbotron in between periods, the hockey team got the crowd even more fired up after Michael Pastujuov’s net front presence paid off from a Steve Holtz point shot, giving the Wolverines a 2-1 lead after the first.
Pastujov turned into a one-man wrecking crew by scoring the next two goals and giving himself his first hat trick of the season. He scored what would be six unanswered goals by Michigan and Erik Portillo got redemption in net from Friday night’s loss recording 21 saves on 23 shots.
The Wolverines responded with a much better defensive effort than the night before by only giving up 23 shots. While they will look to improve their D-zone play moving into the second semester, they get another rivalry series this upcoming weekend when they hit to road to take on Ohio State in Columbus.
The two-game set will be Friday and Saturday against to close out the first half of the season. Friday night’s game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. while puck drop on Saturday is set for 8 p.m. Both games will be broadcast live on Big Ten Network.