Standing with his arms crossed and his head down, Nick Blankenburg let out a deep sigh.
The sophomore defenseman’s dejected body language displayed every emotion he felt after Michigan’s 4-3 loss to Michigan State on Thursday night. Disappointed. Frustrated. Defeated. Maybe even a little bit heartbroken.
EAST LANSING — Cody White has only one message for Michigan State’s underclassmen this week.
“Going into this week, we know we have a mission to do and that’s to win the football game,” the wide receiver said Tuesday. “At any means possible, win the football game, so I feel like that’s what we’re gonna drive through every day in practice until the game day.”
When the puck found the back of the net, everything went quiet.
After 67 minutes and change of back-and-forth, grinding hockey, the crowd at Yost Ice Arena was fired up and hoping to see Michigan (3-4-2 overall, 0-2-1-0 Big Ten) find a way to get a comeback win over Minnesota (3-4-2, 0-1-2-2).
But with one flick of his stick, Minnesota forward Jaxon Nelson brought the crowd to silence. His backhander flipped over sophomore goaltender Strauss Mann’s shoulder, and the Golden Gophers secured the extra Big Ten point in double overtime, beating Michigan, 2-1.
When Bill Muckalt cues up film for his power-play units to watch, he doesn’t always turn to the film bank Michigan maintains of its own games and practices. Instead, the associate head coach pulls together clips from the highest level of the sport.
As the Wolverines work with a new power-play system under Muckalt’s guidance — moving from a unit with three forwards and two defensemen to four forwards and one defenseman — Michigan’s time in the film room has been spent watching how NHL teams run their power plays.
COLUMBUS — All Jack Summers could do was stand there and watch Ohio State celebrate.
Seconds earlier, the sophomore defenseman received the puck at the blueline and tried to pass it back in to keep Michigan in the offensive zone as they looked for a go-ahead goal. But Summers whiffed on the pass, and that half-second with a loose puck was all defenseman Grant Gabriele needed to take the puck for himself.
A week and a day earlier, against Clarkson, the freshman defenseman played 27 minutes in his Michigan debut. But he suffered an ankle injury in that game, and he missed the next game — and the two that followed. So, on Oct. 19, York’s face said it all as he sat with the rest of Michigan’s non-dressers. He wanted to be down with his team, and the disappointment was evident.
Typically, after practice ends on Thursday afternoon, the Michigan hockey team doesn’t come back to Yost Ice Arena until about two hours before puck drop on Friday.
But after the Wolverines got off to slow starts in both Friday games so far this season, Michigan coach Mel Pearson decided to mix things up before Friday night’s series-opener against No. 18 Western Michigan.
He called a meeting for 1:15 p.m. on Friday afternoon so that he could get the team in the building and make sure everyone was on the same page, ready to go before the puck dropped.
In that high-pressure situation, where a faceoff win could mean the difference between victory and defeat, Michigan coach Mel Pearson had a decision to make. Seconds later, 6-foot-3 freshman forward Johnny Beecher glided into the faceoff circle to take the draw against 6-foot-6 forward Hampus Eriksson. As the referee dropped the puck, Beecher beat Eriksson to the puck, twisting as he sent it back between his legs to senior defenseman Luke Martin, who waited in the corner.
Mel Pearson spent the week leading into the series against Lake Superior State stressing that his team needed to get out to an early lead.
The Lakers are a big, structured team and they are more than happy to sit back and defend if they get the lead early on. Michigan faced a similar style against Clarkson in the season-opening series, and the Golden Knights struck first both nights. Both nights, it allowed them to shut down the Wolverines’ chances the rest of the way and Clarkson came away with a tie and a win.