Michigan tops Gophers 5-4 in overtime to salvage series split

No. 2 Minnesota men’s hockey fought back to force overtime before falling, 5-4, to No. 8/7 Michigan Saturday night inside 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Mason Nevers had a career-high three points for the Golden Gophers (18-7-1 overall, 12-3-1 B1G) as they salvaged a point after trailing by a goal entering the third period. Bryce Brodzinski scored his second of the contest with 2:42 remaining in regulation, pushing the Wolverines (13-9-1 overall, 5-8-0 B1G) into the extra session for the second-straight night. The visitors ended the game 49 seconds into overtime, but it was Minnesota that claimed nine of a possible 12 points in the season series as it remains the Big Ten Conference leader.

The home side was stunned early as Michigan hit a post within the game’s first minute and scored the opening tally just 96 seconds into play. Two minutes later, the Gophers found themselves down a man and erased the man advantage, but the Wolverines extended the lead to 2-0 at the 7:45 mark, capitalizing on a loose puck in front of the net.

After Brock Faber laid a thunderous hit in the neutral zone, Minnesota got on the attack and Jaxon Nelson won a battle below the goal line. Nevers picked up the puck from the senior and slipped a pass to Brodzinski, who buried his 10th goal of the year, pulling the Maroon and Gold right back into the contest. The Gophers persistence led to a power play they failed to convert, but it reenergized the sellout crowd.

The second man advantage of the night delivered in the second stanza when Aaron Huglen cut to the goal mouth and finished the chance as Minnesota evened the score, 2-2. Nevers made it two goals in 1:21 as he tipped home a Faber shot from the point and the roof nearly blew off the building as the home side moved in front by a goal. The lead was short lived as Michigan responded less than a minute later and the game turned into a track meet.

In the middle of the period, the Gophers earned a 5-on-3 power play, looking to regain the edge, but it was a Justen Close save that proved pivotal thanks to a breakaway save. The pace never slowed down for the remainder of the frame and the visitors took advantage of a broken play, taking a 4-3 lead with 2:46 before intermission.

The Gophers were called for a five-minute major and game misconduct with five seconds on the clock in the second and needed their defense to come up in a big way. The penalty kill stayed perfect for the weekend and that spurned the attack, which led to a power play for the home team. Minnesota was unable to score, despite a Matthew Knies backhand off the right post and continued to pressure the Wolverines netminder.

After delivering another clutch penalty kill late in the frame, the Gophers found the tying goal with less than three minutes to play. Jackson LaCombe lifted the puck down the ice and Logan Cooley skated past the Michigan defenders, getting to it first. The freshman circled behind the net and put a pass on Brodzinski’s stick for the equalizer that allowed the Maroon and Gold to get a point for the night.