Power play goals from Zach Hyman and Zach Werenski along with an empty net goal from JT Compher and a 22-save shutout from Steve Racine propelled Michigan to a 3-0 victory over Wisconsin in a Big Ten contest Friday night in Ann Arbor.
The story of the game was Wolverines' goaltender Racine and his ability to shut down the Badgers (4-21-4, 2-11-2 Big Ten).
Wisconsin skated with Michigan (18-11-0, 10-5-0 Big Ten) all night, but couldn't find the back of the net as Racine stood tall on multiple point-blank opportunities. Jason Ford, Joseph LaBate, Jedd Soleway and Cameron Hughes twice had opportunities from inside 10 feet but couldn't solve the riddle that was Racine.
"Good for him," Michigan head coach Red Berenson said of his junior goaltender. "That's what happens when you stay focused for 60 minutes."
The Badgers were 0-4 on the power play and were able to put just two shots on goal with the extra man Friday night.
"That's unacceptable," Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Shuchuk said in his post game interview on WIBA 1310. "We talked about that -- it's a privilege to be on the power play, it's not your (right). Just because you're a skill guy you think, well, I'm automatically (on the power play). You've got to work hard. You've got to work harder than the penalty killers.
"The biggest key was execution on the power play. In practice we're moving the puck around pretty good and it's like, woah, pretty good, and then it comes time to execute in a game, and we struggled. And that's the frustrating part."
Hyman gave Michigan its first lead of the night on the power play 1:35 into the second period on a fluke play that ended up in the back of the Badger net. With the puck on his blade at the bottom of the circles in the Wolverines' offensive end, Hyman sent a centering pass through the UW crease. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the puck bounced off the skate of Badgers' defenseman Chase Drake and over the shoulder of goaltender Joel Rumpel for the first goal of the night.
Zach Hyman puts Michigan up 1-0 after his centering pass clips the skate of Chase Drake and goes in. pic.twitter.com/oDfNZlk2c7— Andy Johnson (@AndyJohnsonB5Q) February 28, 2015
Hyman, who is having a Hobey Baker-type season for the maize and blue, now has 19 goals on the season and 12 in Big Ten conference play.
Michigan would take a 2-0 lead midway through the third period, once again scoring on the power play. As Hyman was wrapping the puck around the net, the puck bounced out to Zach Werenski who was able to fire a shot over the outstretched pads of Rumpel to extend the lead.
Werenski, who is just a 17-year-old freshman defenseman, picked up his eighth goal and 23rd point of the season on the conversion. Werenski is the second highest scoring defenseman in the Big Ten this season behind only Minnesota's Mikey Reilly, and is projected to be a top-10 pick in the upcoming NHL Draft next June. Three of Werenski's eight goals this season have come against Wisconsin.
Wisconsin would would find opportunities late in the game, including an opportunity from Soleway from the top of the crease with just over two minutes to play, but Racine closed the door on the Badgers' hopes.
Huge save by Racine on Solway with just over two minutes to play, clinging to a 2-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/Vhkz6qVHAz— Andy Johnson (@AndyJohnsonB5Q) February 28, 2015
Compher would add the empty net goal for Michigan to seal the victory.
Wisconsin did many positive things in the game and set the tone and energy early. Despite the effort, there appeared to be a disconnect between what the coaches wanted and what the players were doing on the ice in the offensive zone.
"Some of the guys on our team don't trust our coaching staff about going low-to-high," Shuchuk said. "(Michigan) packs the front of the net, you can't just throw the puck out in front. Once we started going low-to-high from the corner out to our defense, we started spreading them out. But, once again, we got it out to the defense and they couldn't connect the dots."
Defensively, Wisconsin was very strong in the series opener. Tim Davison had a huge hit in the second period and Jake Linhart played one of his stronger games as a Badger.
"I thought Timmy Davison played well, he stood up that guy and knocked him into next week," Shuchuk said. "That will be a highlight-reel hit, I'll show that over and over."
Huge hit by @TDavison26 in the first period. #Badgers pic.twitter.com/h4Z2yCCw4T— Andy Johnson (@AndyJohnsonB5Q) February 28, 2015
Between the pipes, Rumpel played as well as he could have, stopping 31 of 33 shots. The only goals allowed came on an own goal off the skate of his defenseman and on a scramble play on a power play.
"(Rumpel) has to probably make three big saves per game for us to keep us in it, and he did that tonight," Shuchuk added.
There is a quick turnaround for the Badgers, as the series finale at Yost has a 3:00 p.m. CT start time tomorrow afternoon. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
"We played hard and played them good, but we need to bring that same enthusiasm and toughness tomorrow," Shuchuk said.
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