Michigan hockey loses 3-2 to Wisconsin, splits weekend series
Ann Arbor — The No. 8 Michigan Wolverines fell short of completing a season sweep of No. 7 Wisconsin at Yost Ice Arena on Sunday night, as the Badgers ground out a 3-2 victory behind goals from Dylan Holloway, Roman Ahcan and Dominick Mersch.
Michigan (11-7, 9-7 Big Ten) struggled to keep up with Wisconsin (14-8, 12-6) after a 5-1 victory at home on Saturday night, which head coach Mel Pearson said is a result of not being sharp enough when it counted.
"I don't think we were mentally as sharp, but we worked hard," Pearson said. "When you get tired and broken down, you make mental mistakes."
Saturday's Game 1 marked the end of a three-week break for the Michigan hockey team, and could have eventually played a role in Wisconsin's domination.
"We just didn't have that energy, and you could feel it right from the get-go," Pearson said. "The right side of the brain was closed tonight and sometimes that happens."
Neither team could find much of a foothold offensively in the first eight minutes. Cole Caufield had Wisconsin’s first shot of the game on a 2-on-1, which Mann stopped with the glove to keep it scoreless at 8:00.
Holloway broke a scoreless tie at 8:51 with a ferocious snipe off the corner bar from in tight.
Michigan defenseman Nick Blankenburg said that his team was able to find ways to limit Caufield and Holloway on Saturday, but those same things didn't work on Sunday.
"They just got a lot of skill guys and they were moving the puck quick with Caufield and Holloway on the wings," Blankenburg said. ":(We tried) to take away their time and space. We weren't able to do that and they got some good chances off that."
Wisconsin out-shot the Wolverines 36-24, thanks in part to the Badgers giving up the body to tally 15 blocked shots on the evening.
"I think they played with a little bit more urgency tonight," Blankenburg said. "I wouldn't say they wanted it more, but they were winning a little bit more battles."
Wisconsin also won in the offensive zone, where it made life difficult for Blankenburg and the Michigan defensemen with a dangerous forecheck that created several chances.
"I think at times we were a little lazy getting back and that definitely showed," Blankenburg said. "It's gotta be all six guys on breakouts and getting pucks out and there were times where we weren't doing that tonight, so we've definitely gotta improve on that."
Wisconsin continued its control over the pace until the near-halfway point of the second period when freshman defenseman Jacob Truscott was run into the boards hard by a charging Tarek Baker.
Pearson challenged for a penalty to no avail, but the hit below the goal line charged up what’d been a lifeless Michigan unit.
With 7:25 to go in the second, freshmen Thomas Bordeleau, Kent Johnson and Owen Power connected on a play on the rush, as by the 6-foot-5 defenseman Power scored his third of the season to make it 1-1.
"That was a heck of a goal by Owen Power," Pearson said. "He showed his offense and creativity and showed the skill."
Just a few minutes later, though, a tripping penalty on Michigan defenseman Keaton Pehrson reset the momentum.
Holloway and Ty Pelton-Byce assisted on Achan's goal at 17:44 to head into the third with a 2-1 lead.
The Badgers jumped on Michigan and added another goal to start the third period; Mersch scored at 0:28 on a goal assisted by Owen Lindmark and Baker.
Johnson nearly cut the deficit to one again less than three minutes later, but the chance was saved by a sprawling Cameron Rowe. Rowe saved 23 of 24 in Sunday’s win after allowing just one goal on 16 shots in a relief appearance the night before.
Michigan goaltender Strauss Mann stopped 31 of 34, advancing to 8-7 with the loss.
Pearson’s decision to pull Mann with over three minutes to go paid off, as freshman Brendan Brisson cut it to a 3-2 deficit with a weak one-timer from the point that trickled through the legs of Rowe.
The Wolverines ended their comeback hopes by taking a too-many-men penalty with 1:34 to go.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.