Two teams that came into the evening in the bottom half of the country in team defense teamed up to play a hard-fought defensive battle on Friday night, as Michigan and Wisconsin played to a 1-1 tie to open their weekend Big Ten conference series.
After a scoreless first period, Mick Messner got the Badgers on the board early in the second period when he collected his own rebound and fired a backhand past Michigan goalie Hayden Lavinge.
The Wolverines controlled much of the play through the first 40 minutes, taking a 30-14 shot advantage into the second intermission, but could not score. Michigan’s Will Lockwood was robbed on the doorstep by an outstanding glove save from Wisconsin goalie Jack Berry.
The Wolverines would finally break through at 10:26 of the third period, however, when Brendan Warren raced into the zone down the left wing, eluding a Wisconsin defender and throwing a shot towards the front of the net. Berry made the initial stop, but Adam Winborg was at the net front, ready to immediately knock the rebound back into the net.
Wisconsin would earn a late power play opportunity with just over two minutes in regulation, and Michigan would have a power play of their own in the overtime period, but neither team could score before the end of the official game.
In the second, 3-on-3 overtime—a first in Big Ten conference history—Josh Norris was able to capitalize on a one-timer attempt to give the Wolverines an extra point in the Big Ten standings.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday evening to complete their series.
Notes and Thoughts:
-As a guy who has been spoiled splitting most of his time between St. Cloud, Mankato and Duluth this season, I spent most of this game saying ‘Bless your heart’ in condescending fashion. Both teams came into the game with a rather middling computer ranking, and I saw little to suggest that is undeserved.
The big difference between those top teams and what I saw tonight is that those other schools have rosters loaded with really good college hockey players. Michigan and Wisconsin: I saw a lot of kids that were really good U16 players, but are just guys now.
-That said, you can see things starting to change for Michigan now that Mel Pearson is at the helm. I really liked the line of Dakota Raabe-Garrett Van Wyhe-Nolan Moyle. Raabe is a little speedster, while Van Wyhe and Moyle are bigger grinders, but all three are really strong on the puck and effective when they’re on the ice. Michigan’s best defenseman—after Quinn Hughes, obviously—was probably unheralded freshman Nick Blankenburg.
That’s three freshmen and a sophomore right now, but give them a couple years to mature, and supplement the roster with another couple classes of guys like that, and Michigan could be a pretty tough team.
-Same goes for Wisconsin. I feel like they’re missing a big-time playmaker to really drive the offense, but I can see that potential in guys like Tarek Baker, Roman Ahcan, Linus Weissbach(who didn’t play tonight), and Jack Gorniak, who are all underclassmen, and should stick around until they’re seniors.
-Josh Norris ended the 3-on-3 OT with a beautiful one-timer from the right circle. He was set up for a similar play in the overtime, but wasn’t able to get a good stick on the shot when it counted.
-Wisconsin defenseman Tyler Inamato’s brand is “guy who has tackled by his own teammate to avoid taking a dumb retaliation penalty” and he was extremely on brand tonight.
3:01 Mick Messner from Jarod Zirbel 1-0 Wisconsin
Messner carried the puck into the zone through the middle of the ice. He fired a high shot that Lavigne saved, but could not control. Messner followed his shot and backhanded the big rebound into the net.
10:26 Adam Winborg from Brendan Warren and Quinn Hughes 1-1 Tie
Warren skated into the zone down the left wing, around a Wisconsin defender and got the puck to the front of the net, where Winborg was quick to pounce on the rebound and put it into the net.