Ice Hockey

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It started with two friends having a conversation.

Michigan coach Mel Pearson has tried to keep things regimented this week with team breakfasts every day.

Michigan’s opponent was still unknown until the matchup between Wisconsin and Ohio State wrapped up, but Mel Pearson and his staff knew they needed to start figuring out what the team would do during the week to get ready. Especially with it being Michigan’s spring break, finding the balance between working enough to keep the team sharp and working so much that they get tired can be difficult.

Jimmy Lambert will make an unexpected return from injury on Friday against Michigan State.

So, 11 days after his season was declared over — and a week after Pearson said it was “tough” that Lambert would miss the rest of the year — Lambert is back on the ice and seemingly will play in this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal series against Michigan State.

Nick Granowicz scored the game-winner as Michigan beat Minnesota, 2-1

Did he know that he had just scored the game winner, the one that would clinch Michigan home ice in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament after it held on to beat Minnesota, 2-1? Or that he had revived the Wolverines’ hopes for a deep postseason run? Maybe not, but every player on the ice knew the magnitude of that shot.

It had won Michigan the game.

Freshman forward Nick Granowicz scored the game-winning goal in Michigan's 2-1 win over Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS — Jack Becker banged his hands against the glass.

Goaltender Strauss Mann stood on his head as Michigan earned an extra point in a shootout against Minnesota.

He bailed them out when he had to face 39 shots in the second and third periods. He bailed them out when they took penalty after penalty. He bailed them out when Minnesota turned a man-disadvantage into two Grade-A shorthanded shots.

Whenever the team would slip up, he was there to catch their faults. When the game went to a shootout, he was there to make the saves.

Jake Slaker got the extra point for Michigan on Saturday night with a shootout goal.

MINNEAPOLIS — Jake Slaker stood at center ice and awaited the referee’s signal.

At the other end, crouched in the net was Minnesota goaltender Jack LaFontaine.

Senior forward Will Lockwood and the Michigan hockey team face a similar scenario as the last two seasons heading into the last weekend of Big Ten regular season play.

Thursday afternoon, the Michigan hockey team departed for Minneapolis to embark on a challenging yet crucial weekend series.

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Now with Lambert out for the season after getting injured again in Saturday’s game against Notre Dame, Pearson is staring face to face with a question that haunted him in the first half of the season. Who’s going to step up in the absence of an injured player? Pearson already knows the answer: redshirt junior forward Luke Morgan.

Sophomore goaltender Strauss Mann has focused on fundamentals and keeping a routine.

After practice ended Monday at Yost Ice Arena, after most of the team and the coaching staff had retreated up the stairs to the locker room, Strauss Mann and Kris Mayotte — and a handful of forwards — were still on the ice.