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Guiding the puck through the Wisconsin defense, sophomore forward Matty Beniers let a shot rip, and it stuck under the goaltender’s pads. Instead of waiting for the puck to go in or for Wisconsin to swat it away, graduate student Luke Morgan rushed the net and buried it, pushing the lead to 3-1. 

Michigan’s aggression gave it the edge in the first game of the series, leading to a 5-1 victory. Although the goals were plentiful, they weren’t always pretty. Sophomore forward Thomas Bordeleau’s shot, for instance, deflected off a Badger for his team’s second goal. 

Yet most came from the team’s tenacity to follow through on the plays and ensure the puck crossed the line. 

Morgan’s goal wasn’t the first rebound of the night. Early on, freshman defenseman Ethan Edwards ripped a shot from the right wing and freshman forward Dylan Duke crashed the net, burying the rebound. 

The Wolverines constantly work on stopping pucks in practices, and it showed in their play tonight. 

“We practice finishing plays out,” Duke said. “We need to score goals like that. It’s how you win and we’re going to continue to do that … doing the right things every day and stopping on pucks in practice will translate over into games.”

Duke has seven goals on the season, often scoring from hanging around the net. Morgan scored his third of the season tonight — already more than the two he recorded last year. And if it wasn’t for Morgan, the Wolverines wouldn’t have gained the crucial 3-1 lead. 

“He could’ve just drifted by the net and the plays over,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “We’ve been working on getting people to the net and getting off the perimeter. We did a pretty good job of that tonight but we have to do better tomorrow.”

Being consistent at taking the goalies’ eyes away gives Michigan another asset. Trailing behind the play and seeing it through until the end relies on its aggression. 

But, it’s a double-edged sword for the Wolverines. 

Whether it was sticking up a teammate or tripping from behind, Michigan was hindered by penalty trouble, with sophomore forward Brendan Brisson earning three out of the team’s six. 

Yet the Wolverines were confident in its penalty killing abilities.

“It’s all about playing hard and backing each other up,” Duke said. “We’ll kill penalties as often as we have to. Obviously we want to be one of the least penalized teams but if you have to kill a penalty, we have guys that can do it … we don’t back down to anyone.”

Although Michigan came out of its first game against the Badgers victorious, it still has work to do. Scrappy play and controversial calls throughout are out of their control. But staying collective as a team isn’t. 

“I wrote two things on the board when I came in tonight,” Pearson said. “ ‘Focus’ and ‘Discipline.’ We have to stick to our game. We can’t get caught up. Let the referees ref the game and stick to what we need to do to have success.”

Continuing to be attacking-minded and invading Wisconsin’s defensive zone was vital on the night. But an ability to balance its aggressiveness is important moving forward.