For the second straight season, Michigan was a participant in the NCAA Tournament. Tonight’s result was better than last year’s as Michigan won it in penalties by a PK score of a whopping 11-10.
Michigan was pressed and pressed hard to start by the forwards of Princeton. Jeremy Colvin got a pair of nice chances, one being deflected wide, another simply going wide of the net. While the ball could not find the back of the net, it was a sign of dangerous things to come.
There was a shout for perhaps a red card when Henry Mashburn rushed out of his net and made a sliding challenge on a charging man in orange. While the Princeton fans in the crowd wanted a yellow, or perhaps more, Mashburn got off without being punished and Michigan fans took a sigh of relief.
Princeton finally got a goal after dominating the flow of play in the 39th minute. After a free kick taken by Michigan, it was Princeton who got the counter attack. Moulay Kanzi Belghiti, a freshman midfielder, evaded Austin Swiech and skirted through the Michigan midfield, played a nice ball to the left wing that found Colvin, and Colvin played a short pass to Benjamin Martin who found the net. Marc Ybarra challenged the keeper off a free kick, but Michigan’s lone shot on goal could not find the net and the half ended with Princeton up 1-0.
The second half saw more of the same physicality, but no serious chances. There was drama in the 65th minute when Mashburn’s leg was knocked into by a Princeton presser. Mashburn got down onto a knee several times in the minutes following, but, showing true heart, he stayed in the game.
Michigan finally found a spurt in the 75th minute, and the game was leveled. Peter Brown sent a low cross into the box and Princeton failed to clear. It was Noah Kleedtke who ended up with the second ball. He held onto it, turned in the box, and fired to the keeper’s right in the lower corner. Kleedtke has, without question been one of Michigan’s best stories of the season. He continues to play brilliantly from the central striker role, and he tied the game up well with just 15 minutes remaining in regulation.
There was a scrappy fight breaking out with four seconds to play and it saw Marcello Borges go down with a serious shoulder injury. Mashburn made a crucial save in the final moments to send the game into overtime.
Overtime period number one saw limited action and yet another scrum to close out the extra period. Overtime period two saw nothing again, and we went into penalties. In a game that saw fourteen rounds of penalty kicks, tons of pressure, but it was Mashburn again who played hero. He made back-to-back saves to win Michigan the game, and also made a massive save to extend the game after a Mohammed Zakyi.
You have to give credit to Princeton’s side as a whole. The first half was about as perfect of a first half you could play in the snow. Jeremy Colvin constantly troubled the two center backs with his pace and strength on top and got free plenty of times. Of course, it was the beautiful through balls from midfield that free him up. Sean McSherry, a senior winger, played the left wing with brilliant pace as well. It was a picture perfect performance by the Tigers, and Wolverines fans have to tip their hat.
For Michigan, their kryptonite of speedy and strong attackers did them in multiple times in the first half. The snow seemed to trouble them and they simply could not find any sort of breakthrough between the tough Tigers’ defense. The back line of Princeton held up well and Benjamin Issroff and Richard Wolf were able to snuff out attacks centrally and even draw an aggressive reaction out of Jack Hallahan. It was a crazy game with plenty of chippy tackles, and that did not work to the Wolverines’ advantage in the first 45.
But amidst all of that, the season continues. It took serious resiliance and an unreal effort from Henry Mashburn, but the Wolverines prevailed and will travel down to South Bend. Four clutch saves by Mashburn makes him easily the man of the match. He got multiple saves when Michigan needed them. A shootout for the ages, Michigan will move on.
Daniel Mukuna’s checking into the match really solidified the back line. He has been outstanding for two full years at center back and proved his worth yet again. The coolness he provides in the defensive third was so important and really helped Michigan find a bit more confidence and freedom in the attacking third. Colvin was contained well and that allowed the rest of the defense focus on the rest of the Tigers attackers.
What’s next for the Wolverines? It’s a date with Notre Dame in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. They lost 2-1 at home and will want to continue the “Revenge Tour” that Michigan football and basketball have been on. The game is in South Bend on Sunday, at a time to be determined.