The No. 1 ranked Michigan Wolverines had an up and down weekend full of growing pains and championship lessons. In game one against the Penn State Nittany Lions on the road, the team learned how to take a beating; in game two, they learned how to respond.
Before the first game, it was revealed that star goaltender Erick Portillo would not be making the trip to Happy Valley due to a sickness, so back-up Noah West made his first career start between the pipes. While he was the focus of concern for Michigan fans, West was the lone bright spot in the first game and the most consistent player for the Wolverines all weekend.
In game one, Michigan was overwhelmed by the speed and aggression of the Nittany Lions. They dominated the neutral zone, out-shot the Wolverines by a staggering 49-17 margin and shut out Michigan for the first time since 2014, 3-0. Furthermore, Michigan’s 17 shots were the program’s fewest in a game since 2017.
Freshman sensation Adam Fantilli — who had scored in every game this season — did not register a shot, and the team looked lethargic on the ice compared to Penn State. Defenseman Luke Hughes uncharacteristically made several mistakes and no scoring line could sustain a possession on the forecheck.
The only reason this game wasn’t 6-0 was because of West in net. He stopped 46-of-48 shots for a staggering .958 save percentage in his first game as a starter.
Despite the outcome, this game served as a reminder to this young team that it can be over quicker than it began. In the second game, the Wolverines were ready.
On their first power play opportunity, Mackie Samoskevich drifted into the slot and buried a twisted wrister for the first Michigan goal of the weekend. With that goal came relief and belief for the young Wolverines.
Less than four minutes later, “old man freshman” TJ Hughes gloved one down a pass in front of the net and went top shelf to make it 2-0.
In the second period, Fantilli finally got on the board with an apple form behind the net to Samoskevich for his second on the night. 3-0, Wolverines. Michigan was cruising in the third period but just like the two games against Western Michigan, complacency set in and suddenly we had a game.
Penn State got on the board first with 8:08 remaining in the final period and tied the game less than four minutes later. The Nittany Lions had a chance to win it at the 2:05 mark following a fortuitous rebound off the boards, but West flashed the leather with a highlight reel glove save.
Noah West flashing leather pic.twitter.com/dc8uRI12LG— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) November 6, 2022
While all the momentum had swung to the Nittany Lions, Adam Fantilli had other ideas. Just 24 seconds into the extra frame, Fantilli fired home a game-winner from the bottom of the left circle. Fantilli finished with with two-points (his sixth multi-point game of the season), and Samoskevich paced all skaters with three points.
Penn State is no longer undefeated and the Wolverines demonstrated a resilience befitting a national champion hopeful.
On to Notre Dame!