Following an 8-1 win on Saturday in which the Michigan hockey team controlled play for nearly the entire game, it was fair to wonder if the Wolverines could do it again.
The Wolverines put those questions to bed almost as soon as the puck dropped Sunday night.
It only took two and a half minutes for the Wolverines to get on the board. After they opened play controlling the puck in the offensive zone, freshman forward Thomas Bordeleau threw a soft backhand on net from the right circle. Sun Devils goaltender Cole Brady gave up a long rebound that freshman forward Kent Johnson quickly deposited in the back of the net.
No. 12 Michigan (2-0) continued to dominate play in the offensive zone, resulting in a 3-0 win over No. 15 Arizona State (0-2).
“Everything’s executed really well. Lots of skill,” junior goaltender Strauss Mann said. “Every team gets a certain amount of opportunities a game but when you have as much skill as we have offensively and also on the D end, it’s pretty likely to go in the net.”
The story for the Wolverines was once again their freshmen.
After Johnson tallied their first goal, he was crucial to their second. Over the final two minutes of the first period, the line of Johnson, freshman forward Matty Beniers and senior forward Jack Becker was dominant on the forecheck and spent over a minute controlling the puck in the offensive zone to wear down the Sun Devil defense. Eventually, with five seconds left in the period, Beniers found sophomore forward Eric Ciccolini in the slot from behind the net. Ciccolini made the most of the opportunity and wristed a shot past Brady.
“Matt and Kent really have some chemistry, and Jack does with the line too, but those two guys seem to have some special chemistry with each other,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “But I like how they play. They’re good with the puck, but I really like how hard and what they’re doing and how smart they’re playing without the puck.”
The Wolverines spent little time in their defensive zone. The only time Arizona State sustained possession in its offensive zone was following Johnson’s goal. The Sun Devils challenged Mann with two shots while the Wolverines’ defensemen could not get the puck out of the zone, until junior defenseman Nick Blankenburg took a hooking penalty.
But on the ensuing power play, Arizona State failed to attempt a shot. The Sun Devils constantly turned the puck over, spending nearly no time in the offensive zone until too many men on the ice penalty negated the final minute of their power play.
“My team in front of me played really well, blocked shots,” Mann said. “Especially today, you could see that at the end.”
With Blankenburg’s penalty about to expire, Arizona State defenseman Jacob Wilson laid a big hit into sophomore forward Johnny Beecher, sending Beecher to the locker room. Beecher did not return, and while Pearson said he seemed fine after the game, his injury status is unknown.
Wilson was called for a charging penalty, giving Michigan a five-on-three and a golden opportunity to extend its lead to two, but Brady came up with big save after big save for the Sun Devils. He robbed Beniers with a diving stop off a rebound and saved multiple one-timers from freshman forward Brendan Brisson from point-blank range. But despite not scoring on the power-play, the Wolverines had regained momentum and were in control the rest of the way. They outshot the Sun Devils 47-17 on the night.
Even though Michigan could not find the back of the net in the second period, it spent much of the frame on offense and outshot Arizona State 16-3 in the period. Johnson and Beniers led the way, regularly on the ice for long offensive zone shifts. It wasn’t until the third period that the Wolverines scored again, when junior forward Jimmy Lambert converted on a power-play to seal the game.
While the score didn’t reflect it, Michigan played nearly as dominant of a game on Sunday as it did on Saturday, with its highly-touted freshmen leading the way.