MINNEAPOLIS — Top-ranked Minnesota broke away from No. 7 Michigan, skating to a 8-2 win thanks to a five-goal third-period explosion that included two shorthanded goals on the same Wolverine power play.
In a game filled with breakaways and odd-man rushes. Minnesota freshmen Jim O’Brien and Mike Carman led the charge by scoring two goals apiece. O’Brien’s goals were the first of his career.
“It was great to see Jim O’Brien get his first two goals,” said Lucia of the milestone.
Carman, meanwhile, had two shorthanders, including the first goal of the game.
There were four shorthanded goals in the contest and three two-on-one scores as Minnesota piled 52 shots at Michigan netminder Billy Sauer. But the scoring floodgates didn’t fully open until the third period, when Minnesota tallied two shorthanded goals on the same penalty, coming courtesy of Carman and Tony Lucia.
“We were outhustled, outworked, outskated and outscored. Any way you want to look at it,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson of the Gophers’ dominance.
The outcome gave Minnesota two critical wins against the upper echelon of the CCHA in the College Hockey Showcase this weekend. The impact of these wins, as well as strong finishes in the WCHA regular season, have been the cornerstone of Minnesota’s high seeds in the NCAA tournament the last five seasons.
In contrast to Friday’s Minnesota-Michigan State game, the tempo started fast with numerous quality scoring changes for both teams.
Just a minute and a half into the game Michigan broke in two-on-one, but Gopher netminder Kellen Briggs came across the net to stop Tim Miller point-blank.
“That was one of those critical saves,” said Lucia of Briggs’ key stop. “[Without it] all of a sudden it’s 1-0 and who knows what happens.”
Carman opened the scoring at 11:12 with a shorthanded breakaway goal on an nine-iron assist from Ryan Flynn. Flynn got the puck between the top of the circles and chipped it up in the air, landing it just past center ice. From there, Carman took over, getting to the puck to beat Billy Sauer with a low wrister.
O’Brien gave the Gophers a 2-0 lead on another breakaway at 18:40. Michigan was again applying pressure in the Minnesota zone when David Fischer blocked a pass to the weak side with his stick.
The puck went straight out to center and O’Brien found himself two strides in front of Michigan’s Brian Lebler. O’Brien went to the backhand, lifting the puck over Sauer for his first career goal.
The second period started with a tale of two number nines.
Michigan’s No. 9, Andrew Cogliano, broke in on Briggs, who was equal to the task as the Gophers moved the puck out of the zone to set up in Michigan’s end. The puck found its way back to the point for Erik Johnson, who wristed it on net. Minnesota’s No. 9, Kyle Okposo, tipped the puck over Sauer to give the Gophers a three-goal lead, all in a 20-second span at 4:04.
T.J. Hensick got Michigan on the boards with a shorthanded breakaway goal. Tyler Hirsch lost his balance walking the blueline on the power play, leaving the puck for Hensick to burst out of the zone and score at 13:06.
That presaged Minnesota’s third-period burst as the Gophers pulled away late. With the win, Minnesota’s unbeaten streak climbed to 14 (12-0-2) while Michigan’s own streak ended at seven wins.
Next weekend Minnesota has a home and away with Minnesota State and Michigan has a home and away with Western Michigan.