Meyers' OT winner lifts Gophers to a dramatic 2-1 win over Michigan
In a battle of the Big Ten's hockey heavyweights, Michigan scored first and the Gophers scored last, winning the opener of their two-game series.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Gophers co-captain Ben Meyers is a fairly stoic, no-drama kind of guy, on and off the ice. But his role on Friday could've won him an Oscar, handed out by his team's hungry fan base.
Meyers scored a power play goal in overtime to lift the Gophers to a dramatic 2-1 win over the Michigan Wolverines on Jan. 21 in the opener of their two-game Big Ten series.
With Michigan frantically trying to kill a major penalty, Meyers took a cross-ice pass from defenseman Jackson LaCombe that pulled the Wolverines' goalie out of position, and potted his team-leading 10th goal of the season into a mostly-empty net.
"That was a pretty good hockey game tonight," deadpanned Gophers coach Bob Motzko, mastering the understatement. "We played a complete game tonight, and I'm sure their coach would say the same thing. That was a good hockey game."
Meyers’ goal came after Matthew Knies had tied it for the Gophers early in the third period of a back-and-forth battle between the conference’s two heavyweights. Dylan Duke scored to give Michigan a 1-0 lead in the second period.
Blake McLaughlin appeared to score a power play goal with 12.1 seconds left in the third period, but after review it was determined that the puck was kicked in, and the game went to overtime.
Gophers goalie Justen Close had 26 saves as the Gophers improved to 14-9-0 overall and 9-4-0 in the conference.
"He was incredible, some of the saves he made," said Meyers, after Close notched a career high for saves. "They've got a talented team, so to hold them to one goal was just incredible.
The opening period ended with nothing on the scoreboard, but there was end-to-end action as the Gophers had three power plays and Michigan had two. Protecting their goalie, the Gophers blocked five Michigan shots and held the Wolverines without a shot on goal for the first 13 minutes of the game.
The announced crowd of 8,204 included a packed student section and one of the more lively audiences of the season in Minneapolis, which added to the fun for the players.
“It was really exciting. Honestly, it’s pretty indescribable walking out with that kind of crowd and that kind of student section,” Knies said. “It was really fun to be back in that kind of atmosphere.”
Michigan turned up the heat offensively in the second period, out-shooting the Gophers 16-5 and finally breaking the scoreless deadlock when Dylan Duke got free at the top of the crease and snapped off a quick shot that just barely eluded Close’s sweeping attempt at a glove save. That was the only blemish on an otherwise stellar 20 minutes for Close, who was making his third collegiate start.
For the Wolverines (18-7-1, 9-6-0) the more telling number was the 23 minutes in penalties they were assessed, including the major penalty late in a tight game.
"There were a lot of good things going on, and you can't keep sticking your hand in the fire against a good team like Minnesota," said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. "Especially when you go to overtime 4-on-3. It's just too much ice for a good team to make plays."
Michigan goalie Erik Portillo finished with 23 saves for the Wolverines, who had won their last four in a row and came into the game ranked third in one national poll. With the overtime win, the Gophers two points earned puts them just a point behind Michigan with two games in hand. Ohio State, with a win at Michigan State on Friday, took over the Big Ten lead.
The two-game series between Minnesota and Michigan concludes on Saturday evening.
Minnesota 2, Michigan 1, OT
First period — No scoring. Penalties — Matty Beniers, MICH (holding), 4:30; Garrett Van Wyhe, MICH (tripping), 9:46; Aaron Huglen, MINN (hooking), 14:18; Nolan Moyle, MICH (goaltender interference), 16:47; Huglen, MINN (charging), 18:42.
Second period — 1. MICH, Dylan Duke 4 (Mackie Samoskevich, Johnny Beecher), 12:25. Penalties — Ben Brinkman, MINN (cross checking), 4:27; Samoskevich, MICH (tripping), 17:32.
Third period — 2. MINN, Matthew Knies 9 (Chaz Lucius, Carl Fish), 4:43. Penalties — Jacob Truscott, MICH (5-hitting from behind & game misconduct), 17:51.
Overtime — 3. MINN, Ben Meyers 10 (Jackson LaCombe, Lucius), 1:08. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — MINN 9-5-9-2—25; MICH 4-16-7-0—27. Goalies — Justen Close, MINN (27 shots-26 saves); Erik Portillo, MICH (25-23). Power plays — MINN 1-of-5, MICH 0-of-3. Referees — Colin Kronforst, Joseph Carusone. Linesmen — Nicholas Bradshaw, Samuel Shikowsky. Att. — 8,204.