After a Friday game that had their usually optimistic head coach Bob Motzko worried, Minnesota's Tommy Novak found a reason to look on the bright side again.
Novak wound up and slapped a feed from Gophers forward Brannon McManus with 6:18 played in the third period. He hit the puck clean, and it sailed over the Michigan goalie's right shoulder and into the top corner of the net for a 4-3 lead in Saturday's finale.
"I'll give our guys a lot of credit. They came with great will tonight. They bent their knees," Motzko said, referring to the Gophers' response from the night before.
Michigan was unable to respond to Novak's goal, and Minnesota took a 4-3 victory in game two against Michigan at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Saturday after dropping the first game 4-2 on Friday.
After winning Saturday night, Minnesota moved up in the Big Ten standings to second place with 27 points after Notre Dame fell to Ohio State University later in the night. Ohio State remains on top of the Big Ten with 35 points, while the rest of the Big Ten is within seven points of one another.
"That was big for us. We talked about it a little bit this morning, just how close the standings are in Big Ten, and it's really anyone's league, so three points is huge," said forward Tyler Sheehy. "And especially after last night, we needed a good bounce-back win, so it was big."
The Gophers responded from the lackluster 4-2 performance, in which they were outshot 45-26, by scoring the first three goals of Saturday's game. Minnesota defenseman Tyler Nanne broke the scoring open midway through the first period when he blasted a one-timer from forward Rem Pitlick. It was the first 5-on-5 goal for the Gophers in two games and the third goal of the season for Nanne. Then, Pitlick scored on a one-timer at 3:10 left in the first period on the power play. Sheehy scored 41 seconds into the second period, which gave Minnesota a 3-0 lead. Sheehy ended with four total points, contributing on every goal of the game for Minnesota.
Michigan scored three goals to close out the second. There were eight total penalties in the second period, with five-minute game misconduct majors for Minnesota's Ryan Zuhlsdorf and Michigan's Dakota Raabe for checking from behind. Michigan defenseman Quinn Hughes, a top defensive prospect, tallied a goal and an assist in the second period. Hughes was drafted seventh overall in the 2018 NHL Draft by the Vancouver Canucks.
"Going into the weekend, we had film on him, and we know he's a special player," said Nanne. "If we could just not give him a lot of space and make sure that he had to move the puck ... I think for the most part, we kept him off the score sheet and made him force the puck low."
Minnesota's penalty kill and power play lead the Big Ten. The Gophers allowed no power play goals to Michigan on 12 chances over the weekend. The power play squad led by Sheehy, Novak, Pitlick and McManus has been "dialed in," scoring four of Minnesota's six goals against Michigan over the weekend.
"Right now, those guys are feeling it. If you play baseball, when you get in the groove, it's a beach ball coming across the plate," Motzko said. "Power plays will have ebbs and flows, but right now they're dialed in."
The Gophers lost the first game on Friday night after a sluggish second period gave Michigan a 3-1 lead. The Wolverines outshot the Gophers 22-5 in the second period, and Minnesota couldn't get a shot attempt until almost 5:00 left in the frame.
Minnesota will play their next four games on the road, with the first two in University Park, Pennsylvania against Penn State on Feb. 8 and 9.