Taking the ice for the first time in a month, Michigan was hoping their offensive woes were behind them. After mustering just one goal in two games against Minnesota, the Wolverines were looking to make a statement Friday night against their in-state rival.
The statement was made.
The offense returned in a big way as No. 9 Michigan pummeled Michigan State, 9-0. They controlled the flow of the game from the opening faceoff and never gave the Spartans a chance.
“This rivalry is so important to us,” senior forward Jack Becker said. “Playing these guys is such a special opportunity and beating them like that is honestly crazy.”
Just five minutes in, freshman forward Thomas Bordeleau found himself all alone in front of the net. He calmly scooped up a pass, turned and fired a backhand shot through the five-hole. Michigan’s relentless attack on offense didn’t let up. Halfway through the period, junior defenseman Nick Blankenburg released a shot from the point that found its way through traffic to the back of the net to double the lead.
Just two minutes later, sophomore forward Johnny Beecher shot down the ice, wove his way through the Michigan State defense and threw a shot on net from a tough angle past the Spartans goaltender.
Michigan dominated the first period, outshooting Michigan State, 16-3. It was able to pressure the Spartans in the neutral zone, creating turnovers and leading to more offensive chances.
“We played fast; it wasn’t just one or two guys, it was our team,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “Our team played fast with the puck and we skated and when you put pressure on another team like that it’s difficult.”
As the second period began, the Wolverines continued to flex their muscles and take advantage of the Spartans’ sloppy defensive play. Three and a half minutes into the period, senior forward Michael Pastujov was alone in the slot and ripped a shot home to make it 4-0.
A few minutes later on the power play, junior forward Garrett Van Wyhe added another goal for Michigan by deflecting a shot in. At this point, Michigan State had just five shots, as many shots as the Wolverines had goals.
“It all started in the D zone,” freshman forward Jacob Truscott said. “When we’re good defensively, it allows us to use our offensive talent.”
The Spartans came out stronger in the third period and were able to generate some scoring chances on the power play, but junior goaltender Strauss Mann continued to hold them in check. He earned his second shutout of the season, making 21 saves.
As the clock ticked down, Michigan’s energy never let up. Becker scored his first goal of the season, beating the goalie down low. Just 28 seconds later, freshman forward Matty Beniers scored the Wolverines’ seventh goal of the night, burying Michigan State for good.
“Right from the drop of the puck we were good,” Pearson said. “I thought we played hard and the guys did a great job. They were ready to go.”
Freshman forward Kent Johnson poured in an eighth goal after working his way behind the Spartans’ defense. Johnson also had three assists to give him 11 on the season — the most in the Big Ten.
The Spartans were overmatched and Michigan took full advantage. The Wolverines put in an all-around effort and displayed their impressive level of depth as nine different players scored a goal and 15 notched a point.
“That’s what we want,” Pearson said. “We want four lines who can score.”
In recent years, Michigan has developed a reputation for being a second-half team. Following an up-and-down first half of the season, the Wolverines dismantled Michigan State and answered a lot of questions in the process. With this resounding win, another second-half surge could be in the cards.