No. 14 Michigan and Wisconsin split a pair of weekend games Friday and Saturday nights at Yost Ice Arena, indicative of the parity in the Big Ten Conference this season. There is simply not much to choose from between teams from night to night, and the result is showing up on the ice and in the standings. The series spilt was the third in a row for the Wolverines, who had split with No. 6 Penn State and No. 8 Notre Dame the previous two weekends.
The Wolverines battled back from early Wisconsin leads both Friday and Saturday nights, eventually sending both games into double overtime.
Sophomore forward Josh Norris gave Michigan the Friday night win when he one-timed a pass from sophomore defenseman Quinn Hughes on Norris’ off wing past junior Wisconsin goaltender Jack Berry only 33 seconds into three-on-three double overtime. The game was officially recorded as a 1-1 tie in the box score and in the standings, but the Wolverines picked up an extra point in the standings from the double-overtime goal. Junior forward Adam Winborg had tied the game for Michigan midway through the third period with his first goal of the season, a chipped backhand over Berry from the goal mouth.
“I like the three on three,” smiled Michigan head coach Mel Pearson postgame. “You can see the excitement and the creativity. You get your top players out there.”
Pearson was pleased with what the Friday night effort accomplished, even with the usual Thanksgiving holiday schedule interruption.
“Your players scatter all over the place [for the Thanksgiving holiday],” Pearson said. “You don’t get them here until Friday. I thought we came in with good focus and good energy tonight. I like the bounce back defensively from where we were last weekend. I’m happy with the two points. You always want three. We’ll take the two and move on because points are hard to get in the Big Ten.”
Wisconsin jumped to a 2-0 lead halfway through the contest on Saturday night before Michigan went into rally mode. The Wolverines inched closer to the Badgers with sophomore forward Jack Becker’s second-period tally and tied the game late in the third period on redshirt sophomore Luke Morgan’s first career goal for Michigan.
After two overtime periods failed to provide a final result, Wisconsin won the shootout required by Big Ten rules to earn an extra point in the standings.
“I thought it was a struggle right from the get go,” Pearson said of the Saturday rematch. “Part of that was Wisconsin. They played hard. They played with some urgency. Played with some desperation. Blocked a lot of shots. Clogged up the passing lanes. Clogged up the scoring areas. Got good goaltending.
“We just did not have that sense of urgency. We really fought things tonight. I give our guys credit. We hung in there. We found a way to claw back into the game and had a chance to win it. We’ve been riding our power play. It’s been really good for us lately. It’s been winning us a lot of games. Tonight and this weekend we just came up empty. I think that’s why we’re looking at just getting three points and splitting this weekend.”
Having sought consistency in net throughout the 2018-19 season, Pearson was buoyed by the weekend netminding performance of junior goalie Hayden Lavigne, who turned aside 19 of 20 Badgers shots on Friday and 39 of 40 Wisconsin shots on Saturday
“Hayden Lavigne played extremely well for us,” Pearson said after Friday’s game. “He did that last year. We know he’s got that in him. This was his best game by far. We need that going forward. If you get that and play as hard as we did defensively, we’ll win a lot of hockey games.”
First Star — Junior goalie Hayden Lavigne
Lavigne’s 58-save weekend performance was the key contribution to the Wolverines’ addition of three points in the Big Ten conference standings.
Second Star — Sophomore defenseman Quinn Hughes
Hughes set up the game-tying Winborg goal on Friday, then made the pass that Norris converted for the game winner in double overtime. Hughes also assisted on Becker’s Saturday marker.
Third Star — Sophomore forward Josh Norris
Norris’ one-time laser earned Michigan’s extra point in the standings in double overtime on Friday and then combined with Hughes to assist on Becker’s Saturday goal.
“Hayden Lavigne? Excellent. He’s the reason we got the point tonight [Saturday]. Good for him. That’s the Hayden we’ve come to expect and know, so a really good weekend for him.”
— Michigan head coach Mel Pearson on the weekend performance in net by Lavigne
@Minnesota 7, Michigan State 2 (Fri.)
Michigan State 4, @Minnesota 2 (Sat.)
No. 8 Notre Dame — idle
No. 6 Penn State 4, @No.5 Ohio State 3 (Fri.)
@No. 5 Ohio State 5, No. 6 Penn State 2 (Sat.)