ANN ARBOR, Mich. — An offensive burst by Wisconsin in the game’s final three minutes wasn’t quite enough to negate Michigan’s special team’s dominance in the first 57 minutes of the contest Friday night at Yost Arena.
The second-ranked Wolverines held on for a nail-biting 3-2 win over the No. 12 Badgers in the opening night of the College Hockey Showcase in Ann Arbor.
With Michigan seemingly coasting to a convincing win, the Badgers scored two goals 18 seconds apart late in the third period to throw a scare into the Wolverines.
Podge Turnbull scored his second goal of the season at 17:10 of the final stanza to pull Wisconsin within two of Michigan, 3-1. A neutral zone defensive miscue by the Wolverines allowed Ben Street to skate right back in alone on Michigan netminder Billy Sauer seconds later. Street blistered a shot past Sauer to draw the Badgers to within one, 3-2.
Michigan managed to hold off the Wisconsin charge for the remaining few minutes of the period to record their second straight win over the Badgers in the annual Thanksgiving holiday tourney.
“One thing we liked is that we stayed the course for the whole game,” said Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves of his team’s comeback. “The old saying is you got to get one to get two. We did that. Then, you got to get two to get three, and we did.”
“The momentum really changed late in the game,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson.
“I thought the third period wasn’t going anywhere,” continued Berenson. “Then, we had a couple of shifts where we had three or four point blank chances and the puck didn’t go in. We took a couple of penalties and, all of a sudden, we’re on our heels. The puck went in for them and they got a life. They got a second goal when we made on bad mistake and it was a new game.”
Until the late Badger barrage, Sauer had turned away Wisconsin’s initial 24 shots. Wisconsin goaltender Shane Connelly made 31 saves of his own, many with his team shorthanded, to hold the Badgers within striking distance.
Michigan’s top line of Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik and Max Pacioretty each found the back of the Badger net for the Wolverines, amassing six total points.
“With two seniors on the line, we need to be the ones who come out every night and set the tempo,” said Wolverine captain Porter. “I think we did a great job of that tonight.”
Both teams enjoyed a shot at an extended power play opportunity in the opening period.
Michigan’s Brian Lebler received a five minute major and a game misconduct for dumping Badgers captain Drew Drewiske behind the Wisconsin net early in the period. Badger forward John Mitchell received the same sentence late in the period for his hit on Michigan defenseman Steve Kampfer.
“It’s especially hard when in the first period you’ve got 12 minutes of special teams,” said Eaves. “It throws everything off when you lose somebody, too. You’re juggling lines. You lose your whole rhythm. You just have to be able to adapt to those things in the course of a game.”
While neither team was able to capitalize on their own power play, Michigan one-upped the Badgers by notching a short-handed goal during the five minute Badger power play.
Kolarik took a bouncing puck at center ice, sprinted down the right side and drilled a shot high over Connelly’s glove into the upper right corner of the net with only seven seconds remaining in the Lebler major at 11:25.
“We did a great job penalty killing,” said Kolarik. “The goal was a lucky play. (Steve) Kampfer just threw the puck out. I got off the shot and we got lucky.”
The Wolverines added two second period power-play goals to extend their lead to 3-0 after two stanzas.
Kolarik was the catalyst on both middle period Wolverine markers.
From behind the Wisconsin cage, Kolarik found Porter alone to Connelly’s left. The Wolverine captain one-timed Kolarik’s centering feed past Connelly at 12:36 of the period. Max Pacioretty was the recipient of Kolarik’s tape-to-tape pass and slammed the puck behind a helpless Connelly from the edge of the crease at 15:32.
The Badgers (5-6-0, 2-4-0 WCHA) travel to East Lansing Saturday night for their second College Showcase matchup of the weekend against Michigan State. Michigan (12-1-0, 8-0-0 CCHA) awaits the arrival of Minnesota for a rematch of the season opening tournament played in St. Paul.