Tyler Sheehy showed off some impressive stickhandling, complete with a toe-drag to swerve a Michigan defenseman before flicking the puck into the goal.
That display, however, was far from planned.
“I’ve never done that before in my life,” Sheehy said. “It was more just a panic. Saw a stick and try to get around it. … Might be the last time I do it, too.”
The Gophers as a whole tend to give off that vibe, the kind of by-the-seat-of-their-pants play that can manifest either amazing moments or embarrassing ones. In Saturday’s 4-3 victory against Michigan, it was the former.
The split series at 3M Arena at Mariucci in front of an announced crowd of 9,149 lifted the Gophers (11-12-4, 8-7-3 Big Ten) back into second place in the conference with 27 points.
It was quite the “bounce back,” as coach Bob Motzko said, from Friday’s loss that made the coach “steamed.” Saturday, though, he was “very happy”.
“We have to have an attack mode in us,” Motzko said. “When we’re just trying to be cute, we become average quick. When we bend our knees and play the game as it needs to be played, we’re a good hockey team.”
Motzko shook up his defense after Friday’s loss and specifically called Ben Brinkman, Tyler Nanne and Jack Sadek “outstanding.” He also praised forwards Sheehy, Rem Pitlick, Brent Gates Jr. and Tommy Novak for responding to his criticism from Friday and carrying the team.
Sheehy was in the mix for every goal, scoring one and assisting on three to give him points in 17 of the past 18 games. Leading scorer Pitlick added a goal and two assists for a career-high 33 points this season.
Pitlick and Sheehy first combined to set up Nanne’s one-timer about halfway through the first period.
“The big guns are hot right now. We’ve got to ride those,” Nanne said of Sheehy and Pitlick. “Any time you see them on the ice, it’s a treat because they’re fun in the zone. They’ve got speed and a lot of talent.”
Pitlick’s first-period power-play goal extended the Gophers’ streak of consecutive games with a man-advantage score to seven.
Sheehy’s weaving goal just 41 seconds into the second period caused Michigan (10-11-6, 6-7-4-2) to replace junior goaltender Hayden Lavigne with freshman Strauss Mann. Meanwhile Gophers junior Mat Robson finished with 31 saves.
For the second consecutive game, though, the Gophers flailed in the second period, allowing three Michigan goals in five minutes from Quinn Hughes, Michael Pastujov and Jake Slaker.
The teams traded five-minute majors and game misconducts for Michigan’s Dakota Raabe and the Gophers’ Ryan Zuhlsdorf. But in addition to the Gophers’ clicking power play, their penalty kill went a perfect 12-for-12 this weekend, including a six-on-four to end the game Saturday.
Novak, a senior center, scored the game-winning goal on the power play in the third period, a reward for his point play on the unit that Motzko said almost has him wishing he had Novak for another season as a defenseman.
In all, Sheehy said the team’s turnaround from Friday was all about expecting more.
“[Motzko has] been extremely positive the entire year. [Saturday] was the first time he really kind of came in and chewed us out a little bit,” Sheehy said. “We deserved it. We needed to hear it.”