Since the calendar flipped to 2022, Michigan State hasn’t won a game. But in a rivalry tilt, anything could happen.
The No. 4 Michigan hockey team ensured that wouldn’t be the case.
The Wolverines (22-7-1 overall, 13-6-0 Big Ten) crushed the Spartans (11-16-1, 5-13-0), 6-2, behind a bruising four-goal second period.
“Really good effort,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “… This time of year, we have to try to get every point (that we) can. … Good solid win, great crowd, great blue-out (and I’m) real happy with the outcome.”
After a slow start that saw both teams struggling to fire shots on net, it was Michigan’s penalty kill that sparked its offensive attack. The Wolverines’ aggressive penalty kill took center stage, briefly setting up their offense on multiple occasions.
Not long after the power play expired, Michigan struck first, snagging a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish off a goal from sophomore defenseman Jacob Truscott.
The Spartans went on a penalty frenzy in the second period, committing four in the frame. Michigan took advantage of those mistakes, winning early faceoffs to control the puck and taking advantage of its speed in the open ice to convert on three of five power plays on the night. The Wolverine’s plentiful man-advantage opportunities in the second period helped them establish a rhythm, where they’d go on to dominate puck possession when five-on-five play would resume.
“We did a really good job on the power play, scoring three goals there,” Hughes said when asked about what led to the second period dominance. “I think that was huge for us.”
Michigan put the game away midway through the second period, leaving faltering Michigan State in the dust and completely erasing any semblance of the minute offensive momentum that the Spartans had earlier.
Nine minutes into the second period, the Wolverines’ offense — which looked like a shell of their clinical selves throughout much of the first 30 minutes of play — became a force to be reckoned with. A series of shots from Hughes, followed by a miss off the post from wide-open graduate forward Luke Morgan on the right side, got the offense in gear.
And moments later, Hughes snapped a goal mere seconds into a Michigan power play that launched the Wolverines’ surge.
Michigan’s offense imposed its will over the Spartans following the goal, keeping the puck in its control and leaving Michigan State struggling to contain the Wolverines’ speed and skill. Three minutes after Hughes’ goal, a holding call on forward Erik Middendorf gave Michigan another man advantage. Hughes’ pass up top led to a wrist shot by freshman Forward Mackie Samoskevich that was too quick for goaltender Drew DeRidder — who holds the second highest save percentage in the Big Ten — extending the lead to 3-0.
Senior forward Nolan Moyle added to the tally just over a minute later, and only nine seconds into the Wolverines’ third power play of the period, Hughes struck again from the blue line off a pass from senior forward Nick Blankenburg.
Throughout the second-period slugfest, Michigan gave the Spartans no chance to respond. Michigan State failed to record a single shot for the final fourteen plus minutes in the frame, with Blankenburg blocking the Spartans’ only dangerous opportunity — a 2-on-1 break with three minutes left — by sprawling on the ice in front of Portillo.
“We played hard without the puck,” Pearson said. “We played our game, we used our speed, made sure we had guys back, pursued the puck (and) put a lot of pressure on it. And that starts everything starts off of our defense.”
Forward Jagger Joshua finally ended Michigan States’ 17-plus minute long shooting dry spell when his shot was blocked by a diving Blankenburg in the crease three minutes into the third period, but the Wolverines were in firm control by then.
Multiple third-period goals on backup goaltender senior Jack Leavy weren’t enough to break Michigan’s stride. After seizing control midway through the second period, the Wolverines wouldn’t look back, demoralizing their arch rivals in every facet of the game.
“I felt like we played a full 60 minutes,” Samoskevich said. “But obviously the second period stood out.”