When the Gophers and Michigan met in a Big Ten hockey series in Ann Arbor in early December, Minnesota smothered the Wolverines with four goals in the opener, and the Wolverines returned the favor the following night with a four-goal romp.
Gophers coach Bob Motzko said he expected a tighter streak this weekend at the 3M Arena in Mariucci, and Friday’s game supported his view.
Ben Meyers’ goal on a four-on-three power play 1 minute, 9 seconds into overtime gave the 11-ranked Gophers a 2-1 victory over No. 3 Michigan, ending a rally in which Minnesota managed a third out to delete. period short and had waved off a would-be, go-ahead goal in the last 13 seconds.
Meyers’ goal came on the fifth power play of the night for the Gophers (14-9, 28 points in the Big Ten). Minnesota has been in a 1-for-30 funk for the past seven games with the
man advantage before Meyers started a feast from the announced crowd of 8,204.
“[Chaz] Lucius sent it upstairs to [Jackson] LaCombe, and he just made a great pass over me,” said Meyers, who scored his 10th goal of the season. “I had the whole net. I had the easy job.”
The Gophers were on the power play in OT as Michigan defender Jacob Truscott boarded Mason Nevers late in the third period and received a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Matthew Knies, Meyers’ linemate and US Olympic teammate in Beijing next month, smashed the puck past Michigan goalkeeper Erik Portillo after a feed from Lucius 4:42 in the third period to make it 1-1. Justen Close made 26 saves for the win.
“We played a complete hockey game tonight,” Motzko said.
Dalton Duke scored in the second period for Michigan (18-7-1, Big Ten 29 points). Portillo made 23 saves and Michigan defeated Minnesota 27-25.
The Gophers appeared to be taking the lead with 12.1 seconds left in the third when the puck went off Blake McLaughlin’s skate and passed Portillo. However, a video review ruled that McLaughlin used a clear kicking motion and the goal was wiped out.
In a game with 25 NHL draft picks in the two lineups 13 for Minnesota, 12 for Michigan, the Gophers and Wolverines played a tight, defensive game. Michigan blocked 23 shots, the Gophers blocked 15.
“That was a pretty good hockey game,” Motzko said. “Sometimes as a coach, when you sit on the bench and watch the game, you just sit back. We rolled all four lines.”
The Wolverines began to assert themselves in the second period, and Duke collected a bouncing puck into the slot and blasted it past Close for a 1-0 lead at 12:25 PM. That’s all the Wolverines would get against Close, who made his third start since Jack LaFontaine signed with the Carolina Hurricanes.
“He’s a great goalkeeper and he’s tried his best to get into that position,” Knies said. “He deserves it, and he’s definitely a reason why we won that game.”
When Knies made it 1-1 in the third inning, Motzko felt the momentum change.
“If we get one, we get two, because the only thing… [more] what we needed was the building,” Motzko said. “When you get home, you have to reward that rabid mob. They were excellent tonight.”
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