Fourteen minutes into the first period, Wisconsin goaltender Jared Moe slowly skated over to his bench. After freshman forward T.J. Hughes potted the No. 6 Michigan hockey team’s fifth goal of the game, Moe’s night was already over — and the Badgers’ was all but finished too.
Led by Hughes’ three points in the first period — and four in the game — the Wolverines (18-9-1 overall, 10-8 Big Ten) exploded in the opening frame on Saturday. With the entire line sheet producing, Michigan turned itself into a buzzsaw that cut right through Wisconsin (10-18-0, 3-15-0), winning 7-4.
“It’s huge,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said of the depth scoring. “If you look at the games where multiple lines are scoring, I’d say we average five or six goals a game. So we just gotta find ways to get everyone to score.”
Such was the situation against Wisconsin, when that buzzsaw revved up immediately.
Just 1:37 into the game, Hughes diced the Badgers’ defense with a cross-crease pass to sophomore forward Dylan Duke, who easily finished the goal off.
But Duke’s goal was only the beginning. Within the next five minutes, senior forward Eric Ciccolini — who entered the game with three goals on the season — crashed the boards to score two goals of his own to put Michigan in the driver’s seat.
“It feels good to score again,” Ciccolini said. “I thought our line was good all weekend, so they helped me out for sure with that. Our power play was pretty good too.”
And with three goals in six minutes — none of them scored by Michigan’s red-hot top line — it never looked back. Even when Badgers defenseman Tyson Jugnauth cut the lead to 3-1, the Wolverines paid that no mind. Instead, freshman forward Gavin Brindley quickly slapped home an answer, re-extending the lead and even putting junior goaltender Erik Portillo on the scoresheet with a secondary assist.
As Michigan continued to fire away, though, the contest got a little bit ugly.
In the first two periods, the two squads combined for 34 penalty minutes — including ejections to junior forward Philippe Lapointe and junior defenseman Steven Holtz. With those constant hiccups, the first period took a whopping 52 minutes from puck-drop to final whistle — with seven combined goals and seven combined penalties, to boot.
“It’s a little mental,” Hughes said. “Just keep your head in so when you get that chance to go back on the ice, you’re gonna compete and go as hard as you can. But it was a super long period, so it’s kinda hard to stand there.”
And yet, as nothing else flowed smoothly, Michigan’s offense ran like a well-oiled machine at every level.
Three minutes into the second period, sophomore defenseman Ethan Edwards rocketed in a shot from the point. Senior forward Nick Granowicz added his second goal of the weekend 10 minutes later, and the Wolverines’ lead stretched to 7-2.
Despite 30 more combined penalty minutes in the second period that forced both sides to test new combinations on the fly, the constantly-changing situation rarely hindered Michigan. No matter who took the ice for the Wolverines, they dominated, suffocating last-place Wisconsin throughout. Even when the Badgers scored twice in the third period, Michigan’s command of the contest never faltered.
“We talked about some things after the second period, just being disciplined and getting through the game safely,” Naurato said. “I think those games are tough. I would have liked it to go a different way in the third, but overall really happy with the weekend.”
After months of tinkering with lines to find the perfect combination, the outing showed the production up and down the lineup that Naurato wants to see. Though 28 penalty minutes and two ejections isn’t desirable, the production from every line despite that certainly is.
By dominating the Badgers to achieve their longest win streak of the season thus far, the Wolverines kept their momentum flowing.
Not just for the first line, not just for the top six, but for the entire team.