MINNEAPOLIS — The series of games between Michigan State, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin held at Thanksgiving time is a critical measuring stick for the four Big Ten programs for the last 18 years, but Sunday afternoon marked the end of the Showcase.
“We like the competition; we like the games against Big Ten programs, and it is disappointing that we will not have more,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.
It was an emotional 3-1 win for Minnesota at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers ended a three-year skid versus Michigan with a win. Their seniors hosted the trophy for the first time in their careers.
“Michigan had tattooed us three times in a row,” said Gophers coach Don Lucia. “I think that stung a little bit. We have great respect for their program players and coaches. I think the guys really wanted that trophy.”
The Wolverines applied pressure throughout the third, outshooting Minnesota 12-4, but failed to score against senior goaltender Alex Kangas. Kangas allowed only one goal on 37 shots, including a critical save on a short-handed breakaway against David Wohlberg midway through the third.
“I thought we had maybe our best period in the third, but the puck was not going in,” said Berenson. “If we scored on that short-handed breakaway, that could have maybe changed the momentum.”
“This is the best he [Kangas] has looked all year and the team was able to feed off that,” said Lucia. “We scored the first goal and I thought we played a good game start to finish.”
The most critical phase of the game was the last 10 minutes of the second.
At 10:03, Aaron Ness took a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind away from the play. The Gophers held Michigan to five shots on net and one quality scoring chance.
“The team sometimes gets more energy killing the power play, and the team on the power play gets more frustrated,” said Berenson. “That is a big kill. A big kill for the home team and the crowd is into. That is good home ice hockey.”
At 17:10, Nick Larson skated in the zone and fired a bullet from 60 feet out that beat Hogan’s glove. The play was partially screened, and the puck just made it inside the post.
Michigan responded just 55 seconds later when Scooter Vaughn picked up the puck on the goal line and skated in alone on Kangas. Vaughn fired a shot that Kangas kick-saved from five feet. The rebound went right back to Scooter, who slid the puck around Kangas, making it 2-1.
The Wolverines took a late penalty at 19:07 of the second that proved costly. The Gophers Erik Haula scored 34 seconds into the man-advantage on a rebound off a one-timer by Mike Hoeffel. Jake Hansen fed the puck to Hoeffel for the second assist.
“The power-play goal in the last minute, that hurt us; we could not get that one back,” remarked Berenson.
The first period was evenly played, with lots of neutral zone play. Neither team managed to generate sustained pressure. Both teams did manage shots, but rebounds and second chances were rare. The shots in close favored Minnesota five to three.
The lone goal came at 14:50 when Minnesota’s Nate Condon scored on a two-on-one rush. Jacob Cepis flipped a backhand pass over the defenseman’s stick and Condon beat Hogan five-hole.
Next weekend, Michigan heads to Ohio State, while Minnesota heads to Minnesota State.
Video: Minnesota coach Don Lucia:
Video: Michigan coach Red Berenson: