Minnesota falls to Michgian

The Gophers went down early and couldn’t recover.

Freshman forward Brannon McManus celebrates after scoring his goal late in the third period against Michigan on Friday.

Max Ostenso

Freshman forward Brannon McManus celebrates after scoring his goal late in the third period against Michigan on Friday.

by Drew Cove

The Gophers tried to fight back from the early deficit, but the late effort wasn’t enough.

No. 9 Minnesota (13-11-1, 4-8-1 Big Ten) had to prolong their first victory of the season against unranked Michigan (9-10-2, 4-7-2 Big Ten) in a 5-3 loss at 3M Arena at Mariucci Friday.

“I thought [Michigan was] the team that deserved to win tonight,” head coach Don Lucia said. “They were able to play for the lead and we chased the game.”

The Gophers already had their first series with the Wolverines this season from Ann Arbor, Michigan and early in those games things looked up for the visiting team. Minnesota had a 3-0 lead in the Friday night game and a 4-0 lead Saturday night, but the Gophers lost the first game and tied the second.

Friday wasn’t the same story for the Gophers as the first series was, but the result was. Before the 9,000 fans could settle into their seats, Michigan’s forward Dexter Dancs scored the opening goal on the first shot of the game 14 seconds in.

From that point in the first, Minnesota was either tied or behind the rest of the game. The Gophers tied the game early with a shot from forward Casey Mittelstadt, but the Gophers were down the rest of the game after Michigan scored again just over eight minutes into the first period.

Forward Brannon McManus scored late in the third period to bring Michigan’s lead down to 4-3 and Minnesota was close to a comeback. The Gophers took goaltender Eric Schierhorn out for the extra attacker and forward Tyler Nanne drew a penalty in the last minute of play, but a mishandled pass in the offensive zone led to Michigan’s shorthanded, empty-net goal, sealing the victory for the Wolverines.

“We’re trying to play our game and get the game back in place,” McManus said. “Coach Lucia always tells us to put pucks to the net and so I was fortunate enough to bury it home.”

The Gophers were in a 3-1 hole after the first that they couldn’t climb out of. Goaltender Mat Robson played the first period and he allowed three goals on nine shots, prompting Lucia to make a move.

He pulled Robson after the first and brought in Schierhorn to finish the game and he allowed one goal in 10 shots against.

“I felt that three on [nine] shots, maybe we could get some juice on our team because it just didn’t have the same fire on the bench as what I saw last Sunday,” Lucia said. “For the most part, Eric came in and did his job.”

The Gophers are 1-7-1 in their last nine conference games, with losses to Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Wisconsin in the mix. The one victory in those last nine was a 5-4 win against the Badgers at home on Dec. 1.

Minnesota sits in fifth place of the seven teams in the Big Ten with a 4-8-1 record and has games left against every conference opponent before the end of the season.

“It’s always been a good league,” forward Leon Bristedt said. “Teams are getting closer and closer, but it’s not about the Big Ten, it’s more about us. We’ve shown we can win against good teams and we’re just not doing it in the Big Ten.”