ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jeff Tambellini lay face down near the blueline as the clock wound down Saturday. The Michigan sophomore knew Minnesota’s Barry Tallackson was putting the game away with an empty-netter, and Tambellini didn’t want to watch.
The goal gave the Golden Gophers a 4-2 victory in a hard-fought College Hockey Showcase game.
Minnesota (6-7-1 overall, 3-6-1 WCHA) got contributions all around, as its goals came from four different players — Tallackson, Andy Sertich, Troy Riddle and Gino Guyer. Goaltender Kellen Briggs made 30 saves in the Gophers’ fourth consecutive win.
“I thought this was a really good team win for us because of different goals for guys,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “I think our penalty killers battled, and our forwards had to battle. Our goaltender really came back strong the last two periods. It wasn’t one or two guys that carried us — everybody was contributing.”
The same couldn’t be said for Michigan. Tambellini, who had nine goals in Michigan’s first nine games, was kept off the board for the fifth straight game. And the Wolverines’ once-prolific power play continued to disappoint. Michigan went 0-4 with the man-advantage. That included a great opportunity when Minnesota’s Keith Ballard was called for a five-minute major while the Gophers already had a player in the box.
“When we got on the 5-on-3, the momentum was right back in our direction,” goaltender Al Montoya said. “We all thought we could roll off it, and we we’re going for it. And then we got shut down once again on our power play. To be successful and beat successful teams we’ve got to be best on special teams, and I don’t think we were tonight.”
The Wolverines have been shutout on the power play in the last four games, after riding it earlier in the season.
Minnesota took the early lead when Guyer netted a goal from Riddle and Ballard. But Michigan left the period with a 2-1 lead after Brandon Kaleniecki scored shorthanded and Rogers added a backhander. Riddle knotted the game in the final minute of the second period, and Guyer earned his second point of the night on the play.
Michigan opened the third period with a lengthy power play after Ballard’s checking-from-behind major at the end of the second (he also received a game misconduct), but the Wolverines couldn’t find the net all period. Sertich got the game-winner with seven and a half minutes left, and Tallackson scored at 19:56.
Michigan (9-5-0 overall, 5-3-0 CCHA) has lost three straight. Before this weekend, the Wolverines hadn’t even suffered two consecutive losses since Dec. 6-7, 2002. Still, Saturday’s game was an improvement on Michigan’s lackluster performance the night before, when the Wolverines lost 3-1 to Wisconsin.
“I’ll say this: That’s the hardest our team has played all year,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “And it’s too bad it took an embarrassing loss to Wisconsin to get our team to realize the kind of competition that’s out there.”
Berenson said the Wolverines will have to continue to show the kind of effort that they did against the Gophers.
“The first part will be just an overall better work ethic on our team, from start to finish, Berenson said. “We need to show up and compete harder. Part of that is going to show up in practice; part of that is going to be a mental part that we have to put into our game plan.”
The game was fast-paced, with plenty of end-to-end action, and Michigan threatened to tie it up in the last few minutes, applying pressure until Tallackson’s empty-netter.
“It was an entertaining game because we both play the same way,” Lucia said. “We like to play up and down the rink, and that’s why when we get together and play, they’re great games for the fans.”