At one point Friday, Michigan should have led rival Michigan State 5-1 but instead clung to a 2-1 lead. With the game on the line, though, the Wolverines responded with a three-goal third period, finishing the Spartans off.
"We wanted to come out fast in the third and not give them anything," said junior Derek DeBlois, who netted U-M's third goal in staking Michigan to a 3-1 lead. "It was huge to get that goal. We didn't look back after that. We kept the pedal to the metal."
The Maize and Blue scored first, just 6:55 into the game, when senior winger Lindsay Sparks used sophomore linemate Zach Hyman as a decoy and blasted a slapshot past State netminder Will Yanakeff.
Freshman Boo Nieves would tally the first marker of his career at 10:20, but not until a review overturned the waived-off goal. Sophomore Alex Guptill had fired a shot at Yanakeff and rookie defender Jacob Trouba crashed the net. He was pushed into Yanakeff, who was out of position as Nieves capitalized with a rebound into the open net. At first, the referees signaled no-goal, but after viewing the replay, they realized Trouba did not interfere with Yanakeff.
Over the next 30 minutes, Michigan had three grade-A scoring chances but came up empty on each - senior A.J. Treais denied on a breakaway late in the first period, and junior Kevin Lynch twice denied on odd-man rushes in the second period, including a 2-on-0 in which Yankeff made a ridiculous skate save to keep the puck out of the net.
When the Green and White scored at 19:23 of the second, it appeared all those wasted opportunities might come back to haunt the Wolverines.
Michigan refused to let its blown chances sap its energy, however, and the Maize and Blue came out firing in the third, with DeBlois beating Yanakeff with a wrister from the slot at 4:09. Lynch would score a few minutes later, going top shelf into the right corner on a nice feed from senior defenseman Lee Moffie.
Lynch was thrilled he buried his third scoring opportunity, knowing he would have never heard the end of it from his teammates if he was stopped again.
"It was a little embarrassing," he said. "Derek and Phil [Di Giuseppe] played great. They found me open a few times and I couldn't finish. Luckily they kept with me and I got one at the end."
Trouba capped the score with his third of the season, a slapshot off a one-timer feed from Treais at 18:01 of final period.
"We had a good third period," coach Red Berenson said. "That all important goal was Derek's goal. Then we're killing a penalty and they don't score and Lynch does. We were scoring timely goals."
The win would be freshman goalie Jared Rutledge's first this season, potentially providing the rookie, who had 28 saves, the confidence he's sorely needed.
"He's been off to a shaky start, but we knew he was a good goalie inside and it just had to come out and it came out tonight," Berenson said. "He was quick and looked comfortable and confident, and made some key saves."
Michigan will now travel to East Lansing for Saturday's 7:05 p.m. start time.
"We're halfway there and we have to go into Munn tomorrow and get three points," Lynch said.