Ann Arbor, MI – Minnesota’s Jimmy Clark scored in the final second of the second period to spark a rally, as the Gophers (5-3-1 Overall, 1-2-0-0 B1G) scored three unanswered goals in the final 20:01 of the game to down the Michigan Wolverines (5-5-1, 1-3-0-1) by a 4-3 score.
Like they are wont to do, Michigan’s offense came out hot, with Frank Nazar scoring on a tip out front just 1:37 into the opening frame. Importantly, Minnesota’s Bryce Brodzinski answered back right away, knocking a one-timed shot from the top of the crease past Michigan goalie Jake Barczewski at 3:31 to tie the game at 1-1.
For the next 20 minutes of action, the two teams played each other fairly even-up, with no goals scored and about an even number of chances and puck possession between the two sides. Midway through the second period, though, Minnesota got into penalty trouble.
Michigan has the best powerplay in the country so far in 2023, and they showed it Friday night, as the Wolverines turned a 1-1 stalemate 25 minutes into the contest into a 3-1 lead by the midway point of the game on the back of two powerplay goals by Dylan Duke (a nice tip from right on Justen Close’s doorstep at 6:18 of the second) and Rutger McGroarty (a wrister from the right circle that deflected past Close at 10:01).
A minute later, Michigan’s Mark Estapa was assessed a 5-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head on a high hit on John Mittelstadt at 11:03 of the second, but the Gophers’ anemic powerplay was unable to convert. Mittelstadt was bleeding on the ice and helped off, but he appeared to return after changing into the number 25 jersey later in the third (presumably because his regular #19 jersey had blood on it). This is the second time this season a player has had to change into the #25 jersey due to blood, with Carl Fish doing it earlier in the year as well.
With Aaron Huglen unavailable due to illness, freshman Jimmy Clark was promoted to third line center, playing the pivot Friday between sophomores Connor Kurth and Brody Lamb. Clark has been great all year on the fourth line with Charlie Strobel, but the combination with Kurth and Lamb proved essential to Minnesota’s fortunes in this contest.
Minnesota needed a spark to mount a comeback, and it was Clark and Lamb connecting on a rush up the ice in the waning seconds of the second period to give the Gophers some hope. Clark’s wraparound attempt deflected off of Barczewski’s pad and into the net with just one second on the clock to pull Minnesota within one at 3-2 and give the Gophers life heading into the second intermission.
In the third, Justen Close turned aside all 12 Michigan shots, giving Minnesota a chance to come back, and the third line delivered once again. This time, it was Clark and Kurth connecting, with Kurth dancing around Michigan’s defense midway through the third before Clark found the puck at the side of the cage and slid it into the empty net to tie the game at 3-3.
The two teams battled down to the wire, but the Gophers were able to come out on top. Brody Lamb scored his fifth goal of the season (he had four all year as a freshman), camping at the top of the crease and banging home a Kurth pass from behind the net with just 3:28 left in the game to give Minnesota their first lead of the night at 4-3.
The Gophers did a nice job eating away the clock from then on and limiting Michigan’s 6-on-5 time, and by the time the Wolverines did get their goalie off, they only had just over a minute of man-advantage to attempt to tie the game. The Michigan powerplay is the best in the country for a reason, and they generated several quality looks with the goalie pulled, but Close slammed the door and the Gophers picked up the 4-3 Friday night win.
Saturday’s contest is another 6PM start, with streaming coverage available on BTN+ as the Gophers look to go for the road sweep. However, if this writer’s experience from the Friday game is any indication, you may want to mute the student broadcast and tune in to Wally and Frank on AM1130 / FM103.5.