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Minnesota Sweeps Michigan with Late-Period Goals

Vinni Lettieri (Matt Christians) Matt Christians/SBN College Hockey

Minnesota scored goals in the final minute of both the first and second period to help stake themselves to a 3-0 lead and held off a late Michigan come back attempt to beat the Wolverines 4-2 and complete a weekend sweep on their home ice.

The first period was evenly-matched, with Michigan coming out strong after being beaten soundly. It appeared the first period when end scoreless until Vinni Lettieri took a long wrist shot with 2.3 seconds remaining in the period that beat Michigan goalie Hayden Lavigne and give the Gophers a lead after one period.

Minnesota completely dominated play in the second period, keeping the Wolverines from getting a shot on goal in the first half of the period by possessing the puck in the Michigan zone for long stretches of time. But Michigan stayed disciplined defensively and did not allow a goal in the second period until Ryan Collins fired a one-timed slap shot from the right point that beat Lavigne over the shoulder with 42.9 seconds remaining in the period.

Michigan started the third period with their first power play of the game, but it was Minnesota that struck again. Vinni Lettieri was hauled down on a short-handed breakaway, earning a penalty shot, which he converted on.

Minnesota seemed in complete control of the game until Steven Merl scored his first collegiate goal at 8:34 of the third period and a shot from the half boards that Schierhorn botched. Evan Allen tied the game shortly after when he tipped in a Nolan DeJong slap shot during 4-on-4 play. Michigan had a short carry over power play after Allen’s goal, and was able to hit the post when a Sam Piazza shot from the point was tipped, but the Wolverines could not find the tying goal.

Vinni Lettieri capped off the win, and a hat trick for himself with an empty-net goal late to seal the 4-2 victory.

Minnesota’s win keeps them apace with Penn State atop the Big Ten standings with matching 5-1-0-0 records. Those two teams will meet in two weeks at Mariucci Arena. Michigan, meanwhile, stays in fifth place in the Big Ten standings with only a single victory in six tries, and will meet last-place Michigan State next weekend.

Notes and Thoughts:

-The final score doesn’t really reflect how lop-sided this game was. After the first period, Minnesota absolutely dominated possession in the this game. Give Michigan credit for playing good enough defense to hang around in this game and make it interesting when they got a couple of lucky breaks late, but Minnesota is in an entirely different class than Michigan right now.

I already talked about this last time I saw Michigan play, and I don’t want to beat us this into the ground, but it is just so staggering how little offensive firepower Michigan has, especially when they were without Will Lockwood this weekend. They struggle to get the puck out of their zone, but more importantly, can’t sustain any type of real pressure when they actually do get it out.

Meanwhile, they’re forced to play so conservative on the defensive end that there were times Minnesota looked like they had a power play at 5-on-5 in the second period.

It’s sad to see things end this way for Red Berenson, but it’s definitely over.

-There’s not too much to say about Minnesota. They kind of just showed up for this game and that was enough. Their schedule gets much tougher over the next five weeks with a road series at Wisconsin, North Star Cup, four games vs. Penn State, and at Ohio State. Minnesota is in the top 10 in the country, and by the eye test, they look it, but this next stretch should give us a much better indicator.

-I thought Joe Cecconi had one of the best games I’ve seen from him ever. It appears that coming back from the World Juniors has given him some confidence because he was much more aggressive and assertive on the offensive end, generating three shots and picking up an assist out of it. We can debate how good he is defensively, but if he’s going to play at the next level, he’ll have to be more dynamic offensively than he showed in his first year and a half of his Michigan career.

-Penalties got kind of weird here. Midway through this game, Michigan hadn’t been on the power play, and Minnesota had a 9-2 edge in power plays on the weekend. That number looked about right given the fact that Minnesota had the puck and was pressuring the defense so much. But the refs apparently felt they had to even things up. So Ryan Lindgren got an extra two minutes out of a shoving match Michigan started at the end of the second period. Then Vinni Lettieri got an unsportsmanlike penalty for pushing—not even shooting, pushing—the puck into the net after a late offsides call, which was one of the weirdest calls I’ve seen this year, and Lindgren got the extra two again after a shoving match Michigan started after the empty net goal.

-Tommy Novak left the game late after colliding with a Michigan player knee-to-knee while going over the middle of the ice, and left in a lot of pain. Hopefully that’s nothing serious, because Novak is a dangerous offensive threat.

Fancy Stats

Shots on goal: MINN: 6-11-11-28 MICH: 7-3-8-18

Even strength shot attempts: MINN: 13-18- MICH: 15-7

Prime scoring area attempts: MINN: 5-10- MICH: 3-3-

What do the numbers tell us?

After a tight first period, Minnesota pretty much dominated possession. Even in the first period, when Michigan was getting shots, they weren’t high-quality attempts.

Final Scoring

First Period

19:57 Vinni Lettieri from Leon Bristedt and Steve Johnson (power play) 1-0 Minnesota

Lettieri skated the puck into the Michigan zone on the right wing, and from above the top of the circle, took a wrist shot that beat Lavigne just under the glove.

Second Period

19:17 Ryan Collins from Ryan Zuhlsdorf and Tommy Novak 2-0 Minnesota

Zuhlsdorf passed the puck to Collins at the right point, and Collins took a one-timer slap shot that went over the shoulder of Lavigne

Third Period

0:39 Vinni Lettieri (penalty shot) 3-0 Minnesota

Lettieri walked in on the penalty shot and took a quick snap shot into the upper corner over Lavigne’s glove.

8:34 Steven Merl from Brendan Warren 3-1 Minnesota

Merl got the puck along the wall at the right half boards and took a low wrist shot towards the goal. The puck leaked through the pads of Schierhorn for the goal.

14:22 Evan Allen from Nolan DeJong and Joe Cecconi (four-on-four) 3-2 Minnesota

Cecconi took a shot from the right point that Schierhorn kicked out. The rebound came to DeJong at the left point and his knee-high slapper was tipped by Allen and beat Schierhorn to the far side.

19:37 Vinni Lettieri from Leon Bristedt and Justin Kloos (empty net) 4-2 Minnesota

After winning a draw in the Michigan end, Minnesota broke the puck out and passed it to Lettieri. Lettieri scored from just inside the blue line.