After finding a rebound behind the net, senior forward Garrett Van Wyhe flipped a long pass to sophomore defenseman Owen Power across the ice. With traffic in front of Michigan State goaltender Drew DeRidder, Power released a wrist shot across his body.
A clang sounded through Munn Arena as graduate forward Luke Morgan deflected Power’s shot on net, the puck bouncing off the post and into the net. The Wolverines took the lead just 44 seconds into the game.
“(Morgan) just went wide, you can see his speed and strength, and that created everything,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “From that point on, it put them on their heels, kept the crowd out of it for a while.”
No. 3 Michigan (8-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) used a strong start to hold off Michigan State (4-5-1, 1-3), controlling the pace of play. Through their overwhelming speed, the Wolverines forced giveaways and maximized their time on offense despite a late surge from the Spartans.
Michigan’s hot start came from its quick recovery of the puck. That led to the Morgan goal, in addition to many shots from its top six throughout the game.
In large part due to their visible speed advantage, the Wolverines won many races for the puck as they dumped it in the zone. Whenever a rebound would bounce into the corner, their forwards would sprint after it and set up long possessions in their offensive zone.
Sophomore forward Matty Beniers capitalized on that mismatch, shooting through a Michael Pastujov screen and beating Michigan State goaltender Drew DeRidder halfway through the first period. He added another goal two minutes later, his second multi-goal game in a row.
With a 23-13 margin in shots on goal after two periods, the Wolverines created quality opportunities through their passing. Every skater had a hand in generating offense throughout the game, and each weighed whether to pass or shoot when they got the puck.
“If you have an open lane — especially in the first period — you want to just get it on net, start peppering their goalie and test them early,” junior forward Johnny Beecher said. “It really just depends on the scenario, but like I said, if a guy’s open, he’s got a good lane on the net, then you want to get it on his stick.”
However, looking for those open shooters also led to some situations where Michigan State would break up a pass and sprint into the Wolverines’ end. This eventually led to the Spartans’ forward Griffin Loughran scoring off the rush late in the second period.
Both teams played with a physical edge as the game progressed and nearly every time the puck rolled near the boards, someone stapled their opponent to the glass. Sophomore defenseman Steve Holtz played a heavy hand in this, using his 6-foot-4 frame to deliver hard hits for Michigan in just his second career game.
Despite the Wolverines’ ability to keep the puck, Michigan State created quality shots from its possessions. As the game wore on, Michigan’s backcheck let the Spartans get many uncontested shots on goal, and they quickly pulled within a goal as the third period began.
Michigan State’s physicality put the Wolverines’ defense on their back foot, but strong stick work from Power and sophomore defenseman Jacob Truscott kept these chances from turning into goals.
In the end, Michigan’s early domination gave it the breathing room it needed to pull off the sweep.
“We knew they were gonna be running around playing physical,” junior forward Nick Granowicz said. “… We probably should’ve just kept it on them the whole game, but It’s hockey so there’s ups and downs. At least we found a way to win tonight.”