Three-goal explosion in first helps Michigan to win over Wisconsin, 5-3

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ANN ARBOR – With three first-period goals – two on the power play and another just as an advantage expired – Michigan jumped out ahead of visiting Wisconsin and stayed there, beating the Badgers 5-3.

“Big win,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “Big win. It gives us a chance to have a heck of a weekend.”

After taking a 4-1 lead into the third period, the Wolverines watched their three-goal lead cut to one as Wisconsin’s Ryan Wagner scored his 11th and 12th goals of the season, an even-strength marker at 8:07 and a goal six-on-four power-play goal with netminder Jack Berry pulled for the extra attacker at 15:44.  Wisconsin outshot Michigan 15-5 in that final period, and it wasn’t until Dakota Raabe hit the empty net at 19:00 that the game was all but decided.

“I did not like the finish, but they don’t ask you how sometimes, they just ask you how many,” said Pearson.  “Hayden Lavigne was outstanding tonight. We relied on him way too much.

Lavigne was particularly good in the third period, especially when stopping a couple of sudden chances created by Michigan turnovers near the net. His biggest save of the night may have been with 3:14 left in regulation, when Griffin Luce gave the puck to Josh Ess behind the net. Ess took the puck to the front of the cage and fired, but Lavigne squared up for the save.  In his ninth win of the season, Lavigne made 37 saves.

Wisconsin led early in the game after sophomore Trent Frederic opened the scoring with his 13th of the season at 3:33, but Michigan scored three goals within an eight-minute span late in the period to lead 3-1 after one. Joseph Cecconi one-timed the puck past Berry the power play at 11:49, Cooper Marody scored five seconds after another power play expired at 14:10, and Jake Slaker scored on the power play at 17:07.

“We moved the puck well,” said Pearson. “Our guys did a good job. We spent a lot of time on it this week. We’ve got talented players. Sometimes you force things on the power play. We got back to some basics.”

Wisconsin coach Tony Granato said that Michigan’s first-period power plays had an effect, but those three goals weren’t what sank the Badgers. “They got a little momentum off of that, but I thought we played a good period,” said Granato.  “We stayed with it. We played hard the whole way through. We just didn’t win.”

The teams combined for 48 penalty minutes, with many overlapping and concurrent infractions especially in the second period. “Discipline was not good,” said Pearson. “You could see right at the start of the second period after we got the lead that they were going to come out, play physical and try to get us off our game a little bit, and they did a good job. We fell right into it and took some penalties, not only in the second but the third, and that gave them some momentum and some life, and that’s what they wanted to do.”

It was in that second period that Michigan freshman Jack Becker, a player who originally committed to Wisconsin, scored what held up to be the game-winning goal at 14:43. It was Becker’s fifth of the season, his second in as many games.

In the end, the winning coach saw a lot of room for improvement in his team, while the coach on the losing end would have liked a different outcome for his team’s efforts. “We’ve got to stick to our game plan,” said Pearson. “We have to play with that poise and patience. We have to learn how to play with a lead and do the things that got us that lead, and I thought we got away from that.”

Said Granato, “They made the most of their chances; we didn’t. That’s hockey. We didn’t get many breaks around their net. We’ve got to come back and play the same game tomorrow.”