In the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State, soccer has the Big Bear Trophy. Football has the Paul Bunyan Trophy. And Hockey has the “Iron D” Trophy.
The No. 4 Michigan hockey team has held the trophy since 2017. In 2019, nine current players were on the roster, most just beginning their careers with the Wolverines. Senior forward Nolan Moyle scored the third and fifth goals, while graduate forward Luke Morgan added the fourth, ultimately winning 5-2.
Michigan and Michigan State will meet for the 336th time in the “Duel in the D.” Now hosted in Little Caesars Arena, the Wolverines hold a 172-138-24 record against the Spartans and look to add two more wins by the end of the weekend. Michigan coach Mel Pearson returned to Ann Arbor in 2017 and has won the Duel in each of the five years since he arrived.
Pearson usually keeps the “Iron D” trophy in his office, but for this rivalry week, he wants the team to visualize holding it on Saturday night.
“I’m taking it in the locker room today,” Pearson said. “Visuals are good and we talked about Michigan State a lot last week. A visual is good to look at every day this week to give them a friendly reminder.”
In the highly anticipated in-state matchup, the two sides know each other well. Michigan has 12 players on its roster from the state, but even though Ann Arbor is only an hour away from East Lansing, battling over incoming players isn’t a regular occurrence.
“The last few years, we’ve been dealing with different players,” Pearson said. “We have different philosophies. They’re into older players and we’re more into younger players. But there will be a few guys who cross over.”
And unlike this year’s Great Lakes Invitational, the “Duel in the D” will be played in an NHL arena home to the Detroit Red Wings. Neither side will have a home ice advantage in the matchup. As fans cheer, there will simultaneously be boos erupting from the opposing team’s crowd.
The Wolverines already swept Michigan State in November. With so much focus on the “Duel in the D” Michigan still has the first game in Yost Ice Arena to worry about. Michigan is behind No. 8 Ohio State in overall points in the conference standings, making Friday’s game just as important as the Saturday battle in Detroit.
“We’re locked into a tight battle for first place in the Big Ten,” Pearson said. “We control our own destiny from here on out … The points are critical. We have an opportunity to grab three points Friday. That’s our focus and then we’ll shift to the big stage.”
The Spartans last won the “Duel in the D” in 2016 and currently sit last in the Big Ten. The weekend provides Michigan a prime opportunity to close in on first place.
Michigan only has three remaining series in the regular season, so the “Duel in the D” is more than just a historic occasion for the Wolverines. Putting all the hoopla and uproar around the game aside, results from the weekend are crucial to gain a higher seed in the Big Ten Tournament.