When the Gophers and Michigan met in a Big Ten hockey series in Ann Arbor in early December, Minnesota throttled the Wolverines by four goals in the opener, and the Wolverines returned the favor with a four-goal romp the following night.
Gophers coach Bob Motzko said he expected a tighter series this weekend at 3M Arena at Mariucci, and Friday's game supported his opinion.
Ben Meyers' goal on a four-on-three power-play 1 minute, 9 seconds into overtime gave the No. 11-ranked Gophers a 2-1 victory over No. 3 Michigan, capping a rally in which Minnesota erased a third-period deficit and had a would-be, go-ahead goal waved off in the final 13 seconds.
Meyers' goal came on the fifth power play of the night for the Gophers (14-9, 28 points in the Big Ten). Minnesota had been in a 1-for-30 funk over the past seven games with the
man advantage before Meyers set off a celebration from the announced crowd of 8,204.
"[Chaz] Lucius sent it up top to [Jackson] LaCombe, and he just made a great no-look pass over to me," said Meyers, who notched his 10th goal of the season. "I had the whole net. I had the easy job."
The Gophers were on the power play in OT because Michigan defenseman Jacob Truscott boarded Mason Nevers late in the third period and received a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Matthew Knies, Meyers' linemate and U.S. Olympic teammate next month in Beijing, batted the puck past Michigan goalie Erik Portillo after a feed from Lucius 4:42 into the third period to tie the score 1-1. Justen Close made 26 saves for the victory.
"We played a complete hockey game tonight," Motzko said.
Dalton Duke scored in the second period for Michigan (18-7-1, 29 points Big Ten). Portillo made 23 saves as Michigan outshot Minnesota 27-25.
The Gophers appeared to take the lead with 12.1 seconds left in the third when the puck went off Blake McLaughlin's skate and past Portillo. A video review, however, ruled that McLaughlin used a distinct kicking motion, and the goal was wiped out.
In a game that featured 25 NHL draft picks in the two lineups — 13 for Minnesota, 12 for Michigan — the Gophers and Wolverines played a tight, defensive game throughout. Michigan blocked 23 shots, the Gophers 15.
"That was a pretty good hockey game," Motzko said. "Sometimes as a coach when you're on the bench and you're watching the game, you just sit back. We were rolling all four lines."
The Wolverines began to assert themselves in the second period, and Duke corralled a bouncing puck in the slot and fired it past Close for a 1-0 lead at 12:25. That's all the Wolverines would get against Close, who was making his third start since Jack LaFontaine signed with the Carolina Hurricanes.
"He's one heck of a goalie, and he's worked his tail off to be in that position," Knies said. "He deserves it, and he's definitely a reason why we won that game."
When Knies tied the score 1-1 in the third, Motzko could sense momentum changing.
"If we get one, we're going to get two, because the only thing [more] we needed was the building," Motzko said. "When you're at home, you've got to reward that doggone crowd. They were outstanding tonight."