In a weekend of comebacks, No. 16 Michigan fell just short of completing a double dose of come-from-behind wins at No. 5 Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena.
After scoring four unanswered goals in the third period to win Friday night’s game, 6-4, Michigan dug deep and put together a similar comeback in Saturday night’s contest, scoring four goals again in the final period to send the game into overtime.
Penn State spoiled the dual-comeback bid only six seconds into overtime when sophomore forward Sam Sternschein converted junior forward Nikita Pavlychev’s pass to finalize a 7-6 victory for the Nittany Lions and a split of the weekend two-game series between two top-20 squads.
Sophomore forward Dakota Raabe started Michigan’s third period Saturday comeback with a goal three minutes into the final stanza to reduce Penn State’s lead to 4-3.
In seesaw fashion, the score bounced back and forth two more times as junior forward Nick Pastujov and freshman forward Garrett Van Whye found the back of the net for the Wolverines.
Sophomore forward Josh Norris completed the Saturday comeback when he tied the game for Michigan, 6-6, with just over a minute to play in regulation time.
Friday night’s successful comeback effort was kickstarted by Norris early into the third period. Junior forwards Jake Slaker and Will Lockwood combined to set up Norris. Only four minutes later, sophomore Jack Becker tied the game with an assist from Pastujov.
Slaker provided the game-winning goal at 14:34 of the third period and iced the victory with an empty netter with only 18 seconds to play.
Michigan’s two comebacks were impressive in light of the travel difficulties getting to Happy Valley experienced due to inclement weather. After cancelled flights and delays, Michigan’s hockey team got a helping assist when they joined the Michigan’s men’s basketball team on a flight to their game against George Washington.
“Big win,” Michigan head coach Mel Pearson said after Friday’s victory. “Really proud of our team tonight. We had a tough, tough last couple of days. We couldn’t practice Thursday. We didn’t get in here today. That could have contributed to our slow start.
“We told them after the second period that wasn’t going to be an excuse. There are no excuses tonight. A lot of things we were doing in the first period tonight had nothing to do with the issues with getting here in the late night, the early morning.”
Even though he allowed eleven goals on the two nights, freshman goaltender Strauss Mann was lauded by Pearson and his teammates for making key saves when they were needed.
“He’s gaining our teams’ confidence,” Pearson said of Mann after Friday’s win. “Sometimes, your team can play a little freer. They’re not worried about mistakes as much because they know he’s in net and he’s going to make the saves.
“He’s a winner. He’s won at every level he’s played. It’s tough to come into a place like this as a freshman and have to carry the team. I thought he did a good job. Four goals is a lot, but you look at the chances he stopped in key situations. I thought he was outstanding.”
“It definitely gives us confidence that he’s going to make some big saves,” Slaker added regarding the effect of Mann’s performance. “It lets us take a few more chances in the offensive zone.”
First Star — Junior forward Will Lockwood
Lockwood assisted on four of Michigan’s six goals in Friday’s win and added a goal for the Wolverines in Saturday’s overtime loss.
Second Star — Junior forward Jake Slaker
In addition to scoring the two comeback-capping goals in Friday’s 6-4 win, Slaker added a pair of assists, one in each game.
Third Star — Junior forward Nick Pastujov
Continuing his strong offensive start to the season, Pastujov scored three goals and assisted once in the weekend series.
“The Big Ten is tough. It’s going to be hard every night, so every time you can scratch and claw your way to three points, it’s huge. We might look back at some point in the season at this game. Look at those three points.”
— Michigan head coach Mel Pearson after Friday’s 6-4 win over Penn State.
The Wolverines will look to extend their Thanksgiving celebrations at Yost Ice Arena next Friday and Saturday when Wisconsin visits Ann Arbor for a pair of weekend games.
The Badgers have suffered a tough start to the Big Ten conference schedule, losing a pair at Columbus to Ohio State this weekend after splitting their opening conference weekend with arch-rival Minnesota.
No. 8 Notre Dame 3 @Michigan State 1 (Fri.)
No. 8 Notre Dame 2 @Michigan State 1 (Sat.)
St. Lawrence 4 @No. 19 Minnesota 3 OT (Fri.)
St. Lawrence 0 @No. 19 Minnesota 3 (Sat.)
Wisconsin 0 @No. 6 Ohio State 4 (Fri.)
Wisconsin 1 @No. 6 Ohio State 3 (Sat.)