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Michigan Strikes Early to Defeat Minnesota

Cooper Marody Michigan Ryan McLoughlin/MGoBlog

On a night that they didn’t generate many scoring opportunities, Michigan had to take advantage of them whenever they came, and they did just that on their way to a 5-3 win over Minnesota on the road on Friday night.

Before much of the crowd could file into their seats, Dexter Dancs got the Wolverines on the board just 14 seconds into the game when he fired a high snap shot over the shoulder of Minnesota starter Mat Robson.

Casey Mittelstadt evened the score shortly after with his sixth goal of the season. But Michigan caught a break at 8:13 of the period when Michael Pastujov’s heave toward the front of the net from behind the goal line hit a Minnesota defender’s skate and bounced into the net. The Wolverines extended their lead late in the period when Quinn Hughes found Cooper Marody on a rush, and Marody’s wicked wrister found the upper corner.

Minnesota would fight back with a rare power play goal early in the second period, but Brendan Warren answered for the Wolverines when he deflected a cross-ice pass that just barely found its’ way across the goal line.

Brannon McManus made things interesting with a goal late in the third period, but Minnesota’s hopes of tying the game ended when Steve Johnson allowed a puck to get outside the Michigan zone, and he accidentally batted it into his own net while chasing after it.

The win was enough to move Michigan ahead of Minnesota for fourth place in the Big Ten standings. The two teams meet again tomorrow evening.

Notes and Thoughts

-Mat Robson’s time as Minnesota’s number one goalie was a short one, at least for now. Robson gave up three goals in the first period and was pulled at the first intermission.

Despite the rough outing, I’m not sure I would panic yet with him Robson came into the night with a .964 save percentage in a small handful of games. Obviously he wasn’t going to stay there forever. Sometimes guys take really good shots that hit the corner, or weird things happen where a puck bounces off your teammate’s skate and in. No goalie is going to do better than better than .930ish over the long run. Robson’s regression just happened to come all in one period.

-Michigan got the win tonight which is nice, but very little about it seemed in any way sustainable. Their shot chart looked like that of a team that was getting shut out. They’ve got some skilled players, but they were lucky to score as often as they did, given the lack of pressure they put on.

The defense did not look good either, leaving big gaps and making a lot of mental errors and committing turnovers. They were lucky to run up against an offense that couldn’t take advantage of some of those mistakes more frequently.

Speaking of Minnesota’s offense, this was just the fourth time in 11 games dating back to Thanksgiving that they managed three to get to three goals(two of those were against Army, and they did manage to get a power play goal tonight, so I guess that’s progress? That said, yet another game where Minnesota was probably the better team five-on-five, but were unable to take advantage of it.

-Both teams used their timeout to challenge potential offsides on the other team’s goal in the second period, and neither was successful. Both were just prayers hoping for some kind of pedantry as an excuse to disallow a good goal. Thankfully after last weekend’s debacle, this officiating crew seemed to get it right by giving each review a courtesy 30 second to a minute look, and then declaring the play inconclusive and counting the goal, rather than poring over the tape searching for an excuse not to count it.

If we have to have coach’s challenges to take away goals, instead of gambling their timeout, I’d like to see coaches have to gamble with one of their own team’s goals. If they challenge and get it wrong, they lose a goal. Don’t have a goal? Sorry, go score one. I’d also accept them risking the life of one of their grandchildren.

I did find it amusing that not having that timeout cost Minnesota the opportunity to set up something better in the final minute of the game, leading to the Michigan empty net goal.

Final Scoring

First Period

0:14 Dexter Dancs from Tony Calderone 1-0 Michigan

Right off the opening face-off, Dancs got the puck on the left wing and snapped off a bar-down shot over the shoulder of Robson

2:21 Casey Mittelstadt from Jack Sadek and Ryan Lindgren 1-1 tie

Mittelstadt skated the puck into the Michigan zone, and with a big gap to work with, fired a low wrist shot from the top of the circles in the middle of the ice that beat Lavigne to the glove side.

8:13 Michael Pastujov from Tony Calderone 2-1 Michigan

Pastujov won a loose puck behind the goal line on the right side of the ice. He flung the puck towards the front of the net, where it deflected off the skate of a Minnesota defender and into the net.

18:10 Cooper Marody from Quinn Hughes 3-1 Michigan

Hughes rushed the puck into the zone down the right wing and held up just inside the zone. Marody drifted back to trail the play, which left him open for a cross-ice pass from Hughes, and Marody buried his wrist shot from the high slot into the upper corner of the net.

Second Period

3:37 Scott Reedy from Leon Bristedt and Tyler Nanne (power play) 3-2 Michigan

Nanne made a nice pass to Bristedt in front of the net on a rush. Lavigne stopped the initial shot, but Reedy was there to clean up the rebound.

18:01 Brendan Warren from Nick Pastujov and Michael Pastujov 4-2 Michigan

Nick Pastujov made a nice cross-ice pass out of the left corner to a streaking Warren. Warren’s shot was initially stopped by Schierhorn, but it leaked through him and just over the line.

Third Period

16:22 Brannon McManus from Tyler Sheehy and Ryan Lindgren 4-3 Michigan

Sheehy took a low angle shot from the left corner. Lavigne kicked out a big rebound to the front of the net where McManus was waiting to put it back in the net.

19:31 Brendan Warren unassisted (empty net) 5-3 Michigan

Minnesota’s Steve Johnson fumbled the puck at the Michigan blue line and Warren was able to knock it out towards center ice. With Warren racing after the puck, Johnson dove to knock the puck away, but ending up knocking it into his own net.