Minnesota second captain Ben Meyers is a pretty solid, non-dramatic guy on and off the ice. But his role on Friday could win him an Oscar, handed out by his team’s hungry fans.
Meyers scored a powerplay goal in overtime to set the Gophers to a dramatic 2–1 victory over the Michigan Wolverines in the first match of a two-game Big Ten series at Mariucci Arena.
While Michigan was desperate to convert a big penalty, Meyers received a pass across the ice from defenseman Jackson LaCombe, who pulled the Wolverine’s goaltender out of position and scored his team’s 10th goal of the season in a near-empty net.
“Today was a pretty good hockey game,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said deadpan, managing the understatement. “Today we played the full game and I’m sure their coach would have said the same thing. It was good hockey.”
Meyers’ goal came after Matthew Nice equalized him with the Gophers early in the third period of the showdown between the two conference heavyweights. Dylan Duke scored to give Michigan a 1–0 lead in the second period.
Blake McLaughlin appeared to score a powerplay goal with 12.1 seconds left in the third period, but after checking it was determined that the puck had been scored and the game went into overtime.
Gophers goaltender Justen Close made 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,” Meyers said after Close’s career high in saves. “They have a talented team, so keeping them in one goal was just incredible.
The first period ended with nothing on the scoreboard, but the action was solid as the Gophers had three power plays and Michigan had two. Defending their goaltender, the Gophers blocked
five shots from Michigan and kept the Wolverine without a shot on goal for the first 13 minutes of the game.
The announced crowd of 8,204 included a crowded student section and one of the busiest spectators of the season in Minneapolis, adding to the fun for the players.
“It was really exciting. To be honest, it’s just indescribable to go out with such a crowd and such a student section,” Nice said. “It was great fun to be back in that kind of atmosphere.”
Michigan stepped up the pressure in the second period, beating the Gophers 16–5 and finally breaking a scoreless stalemate when Dylan Duke freed himself at the top of the crease and landed a quick shot that narrowly escaped Close’s sweeping gauntlet attempt. . save. It was the only downside to a brilliant 20 minutes for Close, who was making his third collegiate start.
For the Wolverines (18-7-1, 9-6-0), the more telling figure was the 23 penalty minutes they accrued, including a big penalty at the end of a tight game.