Wolverines looked undisciplined, penalty kill up and down
Just 19 seconds into Sunday’s tournament-opening shootout loss to Michigan Tech, junior forward Will Lockwood took an interference penalty for delivering a big hit near the blue line.
It immediately sent the Huskies to the power play to open up the game in which they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. That penalty was the first of two in the period for the Wolverines and the first of four they would take all game.
The trend continued in Monday’s tie against Michigan State.
Michigan was not penalized in the opening minutes of the game, but as a result of the line-brawl that took place 13:17 into the first period, the Spartans emerged with a two-minute power play. Junior goaltender Hayden Lavigne was involved in the scrum while Michigan State goaltender Drew DeRidder stayed on his end of the ice. Lavigne was the extra player involved in the fight, giving the Spartans a power play.
They jumped out to a 1-0 lead as a result.
“I think Hayden Lavigne has to learn to control himself,” Pearson said after the game. “There’s no reason he had to get mixed up in the whole thing and he ends up getting the extra penalty.”
With under two minutes remaining in the period, sophomore forward Dakota Raabe took a roughing penalty. It was followed by a tripping penalty on senior forward Brendan Warren, resulting in a 5-on-3 for Michigan State. And 19 seconds into the two-man advantage, the Spartans scored to regain the lead, 2-1, heading into the first intermission.
In the second period, Michigan drew three penalties within a span of seven minutes. The penalty kill was better this time around, though, and the Wolverines got through that stretch unscathed and still trailing by only one goal.
“That was huge, that was the game,” Pearson said after the game. “They had a chance to really bury us, and I thought our penalty killers did a great job in a critical time for us … our guys rose to the occasion and gave ourselves a chance to win.”
The special teams’ performance on the penalty kill in the second period set the table for junior forward Nick Pastujov’s early third period game-tying goal.
Becker records two assists in tie against Michigan State
Sophomore forward Jack Becker recorded his fifth and sixth assists of the season in Monday afternoon’s 2-2 tie against Michigan State. Both came in similar fashion, finding a teammate in the slot area on a short pass deep in the offensive zone.
The first assist came after Becker wrapped around the net and found an open sophomore forward Luke Morgan to tie the score at 1.
Then, in the third period, Becker found himself with the puck in front of the net. He fed a pass behind him to Pastujov to tie the game once again.
It was the type of playmaking that Michigan needed with the absences of sophomores Quinn Hughes and Josh Norris.
Offensive struggles highlighted by absence of Norris, Hughes
The Wolverines collectively outshot their opponents 85-61 over the two-game tournament but emerged without a victory.
When Michigan coach Mel Pearson was asked to elaborate on his team’s offensive struggles after Monday’s loss, he replied bluntly, “Quinn Hughes. Josh Norris.”
The pair are away from the team playing for the U.S. National Junior Team in the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship. Both will still be with the national team when Michigan takes on Notre Dame next weekend. It will be interesting to see how the Wolverines adjust offensively now that they have two games under their belt without the two stars.
Michigan sits at 28th in pairwise rankings, top 16 make it into tournament
Entering the second half of the season, Michigan is now 28th in the PairWise Rankings. Though it is not the exact method by which the 16 teams will be selected for the NCAA Tournament, it shows that the Wolverines currently sit on the outside looking in –– needing to make up significant ground throughout the remainder of the season. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State, Notre Dame and Ohio State all sit ahead of them in the rankings.
Michigan will play each of them in second half of the season.