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Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey: Gophers fall to Michigan 4-3 in OT

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A decent effort by Minnesota comes up just short in Ann Arbor.

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The Minnesota Golden Gophers fell to Michigan 4-3 in overtime in Ann Arbor.  The Gophers scored first, scored two power play goals, and and led 3-2 deep in the third period.  This unfortunate stretch of not-elite hockey continues for Minnesota, at least for another night.  Here are the keys points from tonight's contest.

Connor Reilly on the First Line

Reilly and Kyle Rau have a nice chemistry.  Some of that might have to do with Reilly, who's on a seven game scoring roll, the best of his career.  Scoring in seven consecutive games is a good way to move up to, and stay on, the first line.

In the first period, Reilly shed a defender in the offensive zone.  He was rewarded by having the puck appear on his stick off a rebound, which he buried for the easiest looking goal of his career.  Michigan Goaltender Steve Racine was somewhere between Ann Arbor and East Lansing when the goal was scored.

Playing Solid Defense For the First Half

Through the first thirty minutes, Minnesota only allowed nine shots on goal.  Adam Wilcox stopped eight of those, only allowing a goal on Zach Hyman's breakaway attempt.  Halfway through the game, even though the score was tied at 1-1, this is a recipe for success.  The Wolverines wouldn't get their tenth shot on goal until the 34th minute.

Adam Wilcox's Shoulders

I don't think I've ever seen a goalie make so many saves with his shoulders in a single game.  Michigan's strategy for beating Wilcox was apparently to shoot for the top corners.  Especially in the second period, Wilcox's shoulders were up to the task.  He does an excellent job of challenging shooters from the top of his crease, and that allows him to get his center mass involved in saves, which is nice.

A Tale of Three Periods

Minnesota won the first period.  Michigan won the second.  They entered the third with the game tied at 1-1.  Minnesota had a slight edge in shots, 23-19, and the teams had each blocked 11 shots.  Neither team scored a power play goal, so you might as well not read my previews anymore.  Le sigh...

The Power Play Goals Happen

Because I wrote that neither team had scored after the second period, Michigan scored on an odd-man rush to take the lead in the first half of the third period.  Why do I do these things?

Andrew Copp would gift the Gophers a five minute power play a few moments later by smashing Kyle Rau into the side boards from behind.  Justin Kloos tied the game less than two minutes into the power play, converting another HUGE rebound given up by Steve Racine.  We were back at a tie game.

A minute after that, Travis Boyd put the Gophers up 3-2 with a one-timer from the left circle.  It looks like you should read my previews after all. (I realize I only stated the Gophers should stay out of the penalty box, but I'm counting it as a win, because it's good advice for all teams in all situations.)

The Wolverines tied the game shortly after the major penalty expired.

The Deciding Factor in OT, Sloppy Defensive Zone Play

The game winning goal was scored because Vinni Lettieri turned the puck over in the defensive zone.  I really have no idea what he was trying to do, with the puck.  He just kind of... I guess squirted it out towards the middle of the ice and right to a Michigan player.  The puck went down behind the net, and then back out to the top of the slot, and then into the back of the net.  Four Gopher defenders spun in circles like dervishes as the puck moved low, and then high.  Not an effective strategy.

Looking back, all of Michigan's goals seemed to come on plays with Gopher defenders standing flat-footed near the net and not covering anyone in particular.  I'm going to pick on freshman Ryan Collins, because his was the most egregious of the night, I think.

With Zach Hyman entering the zone and breaking toward Wilcox's right post, and Leon Bristedt in decent pursuit with inside position on Hyman, Collins retreated from the top of the circle down to the front of the net, eyes on Hyman.  Michigan's Justin Selman entered the slot, being chased by a Gopher forward (I think it was Seth Ambroz).  Starting to fall to the ice, Hyman pushed the puck into the slot, with Collins reaching for a poke check from probably six feet away.  Collins didn't make contact with the puck, Hyman, or Selman on the play.  Selman popped the puck past Wilcox.

The Gophers and Wolverines face off again tomorrow afternoon at 3 PM Central.  Hopefully, the Gophers come out hungry revenge.