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Minnesota's Defense Shines in 2-0 Shut Out of Michigan

Matt Christians

One night after Minnesota's offense shined in a 6-2 win over Michigan, it was the turn of the defense to lead Minnesota to their fifth-straight victory and a weekend sweep of the Wolverines with a 2-0 win tonight at Mariucci Arena.

Seth Ambroz got the home team on the board just 4:01 into the game with a high wrist shot that beat Michigan goalie Steve Racine. From there, a strong defensive effort stymied the Michigan offense, holding them to just 26 shots, with few of very high quality.

After Adam Wilcox made a game-saving stop with 40 seconds left, Kyle Rau would seal the victory with an empty-net goal in the game's final minute.

The sweep of Michigan gives Minnesota a 16-9-3 overall record and vaults from fourth place in the Big Ten into a tie with Michigan atop the Big Ten standings. Michigan falls to 16-10-0 on the season with the loss.

Fancy Stats

Shots on Goal: MINN: 7-18-8-33    MICH: 6-9-11-26

Corsi(even strength shot attempts) MINN: 14-19-14-47-50.5%    MICH: 12-17-17-46-49.5%

Prime scoring area chances: MINN: 7-13-3-26     MICH: 6-9-10-25

What do the numbers tell us?

Minnesota held a slight edge both in terms of possession and quality of scoring chances through the first two periods. In the third period, when Michigan was desperate to get the tying goal, they had a slight edge in possession, but not really enough to turn the tide in the game.

Notes:

-Having the last change at home was a huge advantage for Minnesota this weekend. They were able to match up their second line of Warning-Boyd-Ambroz and the defensive pair of Brady Skjei and Ryan Collins against Michigan's top scoring line of Kile-Larkin-Hyman, and they kept that line silent the entire weekend.

Skjei and Collins in particular did an impressive amount of work. After struggling last night, Michigan made a concerted effort to get pucks deep into the zone and try to establish their cycle tonight. Minnesota did a brilliant job of making sure Michigan could never get the puck off the wall though. Skjei played in the last series against Michigan, but it was his first back from injury and he wasn't quite up to full speed yet. He was great this weekend, as was Collins who showed signs of his potential to be a shut down defenseman.

-Michigan's most effective line tonight was the line of Motte-Copp-Compher, which got thrown into the blender a bit midway through the game when Andrew Copp left with an apparent arm/shoulder injury, and was never quite as effective afterwards.

-Michigan never showed much desperation in the latter half of the third period as they tried to tie the game, in part because they appeared to be pretty gassed. The Wolverines are basically a two-line team with the third and fourth line mixed in at a relative minimum. After the game, Don Lucia said he wasn't surprised by the low score of tonight's game because of the big minutes a lot of players played on both sides last night.

-Michigan only had one good scoring chances in the final minutes of the game(they spent nearly two minutes in the final stretch stuck in their own end) that came off a scramble in front of the net with Adam Wilcox coming up with a big stop. "The save at the end was kind of what we're used to, that he can make that game-changing save," said Lucia after the game.  Being able to rely on that goaltending when needed is a big part of the confidence Minnesota shows when they're playing well.

-Mike Reilly didn't show up on the scoresheet tonight, but he was outstanding again. He's one of the most talented players in the country and extremely fun to watch when he's on his game. He's made some tremendous passes tonight, and put a lot of pressure on Michigan's defense by joining into the offense on numerous occasions. Despite his big offensive presence, he was very strong defensively as well.

-Last night, I pondered what the score might have been like if Michigan hadn't given up two soft goals late in the first period that sent the game out of reach. Tonight may have answered that question. Steve Racine started in net for Michigan in place of Zach Nagelvoort and after a somewhat shaky first goal, he was fantastic for Michigan for the rest of the game. He made some huge saves that gave Michigan a chance to get a result at the end, but the offense in front of him could do nothing  with that opportunity.

-This weekend really reversed the fortunes of the two teams involved. Minnesota isn't securely in the tournament, but still has two losses to play with in their eight remaining games, none of which look particularly difficult. Michigan, meanwhile, is now on the outside looking in for the NCAA tournament. Their schedule isn't strenuous at all either, but they significantly cut their margin for error this weekend.

Final Scoring

First Period

4:01 Seth Ambroz from Leon Bristedt 1-0 Minnesota

Bristedt forced a turnover along the boards in the left corner, then flipped a pass between his legs to Ambroz at the top of the left circle. Ambroz skated in two strides and shot a high wrist shot over the glove of Racine.

Second Period

None

Third Period

19:40 Kyle Rau from Hudson Fasching (empty net) 2-0 Minnesota

Fasching chipped a puck along the wall in the neutral zone past the Michigan defense. Rau got behind the defense and put the puck into an open net to seal the victory