If the third time’s a charm, then the third time Northwestern faced Michigan was always bound to be a fight.
Northwestern (17-2, 6-0 B1G) took down Michigan (12-8, 3-3 B1G) 8-7 to stay alive in the NCAAs and head to the quarterfinals. It was the first time all season that the ‘Cats didn’t reach double-digit goals and the first time since Feb. 19 against Boston College that they were trailing at halftime and into the fourth quarter.
Hailey Rhatigan and Erin Coykendall each put up two goals to lead the ‘Cats. For the Wolverines, Jill Smith and Julia Schwabe each also had two. In what was an uncharacteristically low-scoring game, Molly Laliberty garnered seven saves.
Across the game, there were 10 cards, including five yellows for Northwestern. Despite winning 16-8 and 18-11 the first two times, Michigan was able to evenly match up this time around. The Wildcats may have outshot the Wolverines 33-20, but they only led 18:14 on shots on goal and 11:8 on draw controls. There were 33 total turnovers — 21 of which came from Michigan.
Maddy Taylor claimed the opening draw for the ‘Cats, setting up Coykendall for the game's first goal.
After five possession changes and a green card issued to Rhatigan, the Wolverines tied the game with a goal by Kaley Thompson. Michigan took the lead off a free-position shot three minutes later during a man-down situation for Northwestern.
Trailing 2-1 out of a timeout, the Wildcats struggled to find a quick answer for the Wolverine defense, but the answer was soon found in Rhatigan. At the 2:44 mark, Rhatigan tied the game on a sidearm shot. Rhatigan then laid down a check to regain possession of the ball during a Michigan clear on the next drive, eventually setting up Izzy Scane’s 82nd goal of the season.
Tensions ran high, as it seemed Michigan finally figured out Northwestern the third time around. In just over 20 minutes of play, there had been two crease violations by the Wolverines and five cards issued — including two yellows for both teams. The ‘Cats’ 3-2 lead was short-lived with the Wolverines claiming the first two goals of the frame. NU equalized the score off a free position, where Coykendall fed Dylan Amonte the ball for a quick shot in front of the cage.
Smith capitalized off yet another man-down situation for the ‘Cats to regain a 5-4 advantage.
After two quarters, Northwestern lead Michigan in shots (19:15), draw controls (8:3) and free positions (4:2), but with only one goal in the entire second quarter, the Wolverines stalled the nation’s most prolific offense.
It took three minutes, three possession changes and three fouls, but NU struck first in the second half with a goal from Elle Hansen — evening the game 5-5. The Wolverines responded right back to make it 6-5.
The pattern of making drives, firing shots and gathering fouls continued for both squads — Scane even received a yellow card in the mix. The ‘Cats managed five shots over the last 10 minutes of the quarter while the Wolverines had none, but the score remained 6-5 heading into the final quarter.
In the first 30 seconds, Coykendall chipped in her second goal of the day. Off a free position, Rhatigan made her way around a defender to whip a sidearm shot and deliver Northwestern its first lead since the opening quarter.
Carleigh Mahoney kept the scoring streak alive off an assist from Scane for her first goal of the season and NU’s third in five minutes — expanding NU’s lead to 8-6. However, the Wolverines refused to go down quietly. Schwabe found the back of the net to cut NU’s lead to one, but the Wildcats were able to hold off any last-minute attempts by the Wolverines and walk away victorious.
The Wildcats are back in action on May 18, for the NCAA quarterfinals, where they will take on the winner of Stony Brook and Loyola Maryland.