Aaron Huglen on the breakaway. Photo by Craig Cotner.
Aaron Huglen on the breakaway. Photo by Craig Cotner.

Gophers Come Back from 3 Down in Third, Michigan Wins in OT

Minneapolis, MN – After a disappointing first 40 minutes in Saturday’s regular season finale, the Minnesota Gophers (20-9-5 Overall (4-1 OT), 10-6-3-5 B1G (41 pts)) capped off a furious comeback with an extra-attacker goal to send the game to overtime against the Michigan Wolverines (18-13-3 (1-1), 10-10-2-2 (36)). However, a last-minute penalty on Rhett Pitlick gave the Wolverines an overtime powerplay, and the best PP in the country capitalized, winning the game for Michigan after a lengthy review for a hand pass earlier in the play was denied.

Minnesota and Michigan both looked solid early in the first period, trading chances back and forth. Minnesota took the first penalty of the game when Bryce Brodzinski slashed down a Michigan player on the rush 7:47 into the first. Seamus Casey scored just 14 seconds later at 8:01 of the period to give Michigan the lead.

Michigan took it to Minnesota the rest of the period, putting 15 shots on Justen Close to the Gophers’ five. Gavin Brindley scored to put the Wolverines up 2-0 at 16:20 on a nice two-on-one rush. Thirty-one seconds later, Mark Estapa scored when a Justen Close clearing attempt went awry, giving Michigan a huge 3-0 lead.

Minnesota couldn’t get much traction in the second period, with Nathan Airey replacing Close in net for the Gophers. Minnesota had two 2-minute powerplays and a five-minute major in the period, but still could not find a way to score on Michigan goalie Noah West.

If a comeback was going to happen, it would need to start early in the third period, and Jaxon Nelson kicked it off just 32 seconds in. Nelson rushed the puck up the right wing before finding a small window in the near-side corner to beat West and get Minnesota on the board at 3-1. Gavin Brindley poured some water on the comeback by scoring his second goal of the game at 7:01, increasing Michigan’s lead back up to 4-1 at 7:01. Undaunted, the Gophers stormed back, with goals from Brody Lamb (7:58), Jaxon Nelson (9:29), and Aaron Huglen (14:04) to come all the way back and tie the game at 4-4.

Rutger McGroarty scored at 16:36 of the third to give Michigan another lead at 5-4 with just 3:24 left to play.

After the Gophers pulled Airey, Jaxon Nelson was able to find a pinching Luke Mittelstadt streaking down the slot, and the cross-ice pass was perfectly placed for Mittelstadt to beat West five-hole and tie the game at 5-5 with just 1:39 left in the period.

Rhett Pitlick took an ill-advised cross-checking penalty with 16 seconds left in the third, giving Michigan a powerplay chance to win the game in regulation. Airey and the Gophers were able to hold strong and push the game into overtime.

In the overtime, the Wolverines started with 1:44 of 4-on-3, and while Minnesota did a nice job of killing the man advantage, Michigan’s powerplay was just too strong. Seamus Casey scored the game-winner 1:31 into the extra session on a one-time slapper.

The win was delayed as Bob Motzko and the Gophers challenged the goal for a hand-pass earlier in the play, but the referees called it a good goal, so Michigan ended up winning a wild one 6-5.

Minnesota wraps up the regular season in third place in the Big Ten standings, and will host Penn State in the first round of the conference playoffs next weekend. The Gophers also sit 7th in the PairWise Rankings, and look likely to finish somewhere between #6 and #8 unless something unexpected happens.

Leave a Reply