MINNEAPOLIS – Not even the temperature at the ice level can cool off Rem Pitlick and Tyler Sheehy right now.
Pitlick and Sheehy had big nights once again, and they helped the Minnesota Golden Gophers put a horrendous performance on Friday behind them as they beat the Michigan Wolverines 4-3 on Saturday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci for a series split.
Head coach Bob Motzko isn’t the least bit surprised by the second-half surge of Pitlick and Sheehy.
“They both have track records of it,” Motzko said of his two first-line forwards. “Those guys score goals and create points.”
Pitlick is now up to 17 goals on the season, and ten of them have come since the second half began in late December to lead the nation in that category. With three more assists, Sheehy has 19 helpers in the second half, which is also good for best in the nation. He has 24 overall.
Earlier in the day, Motzko gathered his team together to try and get things straightened out after a very poor effort in a 4-2 loss on Friday night. While he has been mostly positive all year, Motzko admitted the meeting was not a positive one.
“We were pretty steamed after last night and this morning,” he said.
Michael Pastujov scored twice for Michigan, but the Wolverines only mustered five shots in the third period and were mostly inconsistent aside from their quick scoring barrage in the second period, and head coach Mel Pearson addressed the state of his team.
“Tough loss,” Pearson said. “We’ve gotta learn to be a real good team. You have to play harder after a Friday game. We did a good job in the second [period] to get back in it.
“Good teams can come in and finish the weekend off, and we’re just an okay team right now. They showed some battle, but we gotta show that right from the start of the game. You can’t wait and battle back like we did. It’s not a winning formula.”
Despite taking three penalties in the first period, Minnesota had a solid forecheck and played well defensively. Tyler Nanne opened the game’s scoring with a one-time blast from the slot, then Pitlick struck yet again from the right circle on the power play, connecting from his usual man-advantage perch to make it a 2-0 Gophers lead. Pitlick has scored at least one goal in each of his last nine games.
Minnesota increased their lead to three early in the second as Sheehy scored from in front on a nice feed from behind by Pitlick. But the Gophers let up for most of the period after that, and the Wolverines took advantage by scoring three times in a span of 4:38 to tie it up on a Quinn Hughes one-timer and two goals in close by Michael Pastujov.
“We made two glaring mistakes [on those goals],” Motzko said, admitting that the Gophers were a player short on the ice.
Tommy Novak scored the game-winner for the Gophers with just under 14 minutes left in regulation. While he hasn’t scored a ton of goals this season, Motzko loves what Novak brings to his team, especially defensively.
“[He’s got] enormous talent,” Motzko said. “I think he sees the ice like a magician. He’s very natural right there.”
Mat Robson had 31 saves for Minnesota (11-12-4 overall, 8-7-3 Big Ten), and Hayden Lavigne made eight saves on 11 shots for Michigan (10-11-6, 7-6-4-2) before being pulled in favor of Strauss Mann. Mann had 10 saves on 11 shots to take the loss.
Michigan faces Michigan State in a two-game series at home and at Detroit next week, while Minnesota will head on the road for the next two weeks with respective visits to Penn State and Ohio State.
MINN goal at 9:19: Tyler Nanne (3). Assisted by Rem Pitlick (15) and Tyler Sheehy (22).
MINN power-play goal at 16:50: Pitlick (17). Assisted by Sheehy (23) and Brent Gates (12).
MINN goal at :41: Sheehy (8). Assisted by Pitlick (16) and Jack Sadek (9).
MICH goal at 3:28: Quinn Hughes (4). Assisted by Jake Slaker (8) and Jimmy Lambert (6).
MICH goal at 6:20: Michael Pastujov (5). Assisted by Slaker (9).
MICH goal at 8:06: Pastujov (6). Assisted by Slaker (10) and Hughes (21).
MINN power-play goal at 6:18: Tommy Novak (3). Assisted by Brannon McManus (9) and Sheehy (24).
Power plays: MICH 0-7, MINN 2-4.
Shots on goal: MICH 34, MINN 22.