In the Michigan hockey team’s first game against Penn State in November, it didn’t score till late in the opening period, and most of its goals came late. That wasn’t the story tonight.
The fourth-ranked Wolverines relied on their first period performance to seal the victory against the Nittany Lions. In the second series between the two teams, Michigan (17-6-1 overall, 8-5 Big Ten) kept its winning record against Penn State (12-2 overall, 3-10 Big Ten), beating them 3-2.
The Wolverines had the momentum from the start. In the fifth minute, freshman forward Mackie Samoskevich caught the puck out of the air and drove it up the center. Splitting the two Nittany Lion defenders, he found freshman defenseman Luke Hughes who scored the close range goal.
Michigan’s scoring halted until the last two minutes of the period when Penn State earned a major penalty for contact to the head. Sophomore forward Matty Beniers hit the one time finish moments after, bagging the Wolverines first power play goal. Less than a minute later, sophomore forward Kent Johnson guided the puck into the net after sophomore forward Brendan Brisson found him right of the net. By the end of the first period, Michigan had the 3-0 advantage.
In the second period, the Wolverines produced a lot of offensive chances, but couldn’t find their next goal. Senior forward Garrett Van Wyhe went one-on-one with the Nittany Lion’s goaltender and forced a blocked shot from the left wing–but none went in. And after scoring a pair of open net goals last weekend, junior forward Johnny Beecher still had trouble scoring off the breakaways.
Michigan remained solid defensively, with sophomore goaltender Erik Portillo making key saves and keeping the sheet clean. At the end of the period the Wolverines’ score hadn’t changed and they led in shots 23-16.
Penn State looked to play itself back into the game, scoring it’s first of the night in the third period. And after senior defenseman Nick Blankenburg missed a shot in the fifth minute, the Nittany Lions came back and scored again, lowering the deficit to one goal. In the last series Michigan won by four goals in both matchups. Penn State had figured out how to clap back, earning 11 shots on net.
In the final minutes of the game, the Wolverines earned a power play and an opportunity to lengthen their lead, but they were unable to capitalize. The Nittany Lions learned how to counter Michigan’s game plan, making tomorrow’s second game one to watch for.