In a physical second period that began with limited scoring opportunities for either side, sophomore defenseman Jacob Truscott held the puck on his stick following a faceoff victory in the offensive zone.
He attracted the eyes of the defense before finding sophomore forward Brendan Brisson streaking up the slot. Brisson’s speed powered him past defenders as the puck caressed onto his stick. He held it on his left as he approached Spartan goaltender Pierce Charleson, then quickly moved the puck to his right, leaving Charleson in the dust and flipping the puck into the top shelf.
Brisson outstretched his arms towards the electric maize out crowd in celebration, as it created a 3-1 buffer that the No. 3 Michigan hockey team (7-2-0 overall, 2-1-0 Big Ten) would not relinquish, destroying arch rival Michigan State (4-4-1, 1-2), 7-2.
Less than five minutes into the rivalry tilt, Michigan solidified its offensive attack. Freshman forward Mackie Samoskevich flashed a nifty dangle to get past his defender as he entered the offensive zone. He quickly found sophomore forward Matty Beniers streaking on the left side, who generated the Wolverines’ best chance of the night to that point.
Although Charleson ended the opportunity, Michigan deployed the exact same play art moments later.
This time, it worked.
Once again, Beniers received a pass in stride from the left side of the ice — coming from sophomore forward Kent Johnson on this occasion — and he wouldn’t be denied, sniping it under Charleson’s glove to net the game’s first goal.
“I think this was my best game,” Beniers said. “I think I was just flying around the ice … I was just in good spots today.”
At around the 15 minute mark of the first period, senior forward Garrett Van Wyhe was ejected for a hit to the head, spurring a five minute major penalty for the Spartans.
The Wolverine penalty kill, however, stole the show. They dominated every facet of the kill, outshooting Michigan State 3-2. The Spartans’ two shots were relatively weak, while Michigan initiated three breakaway chances via aggression at the blue line, forcing Charleson to make sprawling saves during his team’s man-up advantage.
The Wolverines would later generate a handful of opportunities in a third-period penalty kill, posting yet another dominant evening when down a skater where they killed all five penalties faced.
“We did an excellent job,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “I thought that (first period major penalty) was a turning point in the first period, that we killed that and we got going again.”
A power play goal from Beniers, his second of the night, put the Wolverines up 2-0 midway through the first period, but Michigan State fought back. It began slowly building an offensive rhythm, culminating in a strong attack from freshman defenseman David Gucciardi to end the period.
Gucciardi generated a dangerous shot from the left side, rickesheying off the goal post. Gucciardi corralled his own rebound, wrapping around the net and finding defenseman Cole Krygier in the middle of the ice. Krygier launched the puck to Portillo’s left, securing Michigan State’s first goal of the night.
The Spartans’ momentum to end the first period was short lived, as the Wolverines controlled the rest of the matchup.
The puck remained in the neutral zone for much of the second period, as skaters were regularly spilling onto the ice in an increasingly physical battle. Following Brisson’s goal, Michigan’s offense found its rhythm, adding a skillful goal from freshman defenseman Luke Hughes on the left side to make it 4-1.
Bad blood between the two in-state rivals boiled over to begin the third period. After Michigan State forward Erik Middendorf was pummeled into his own bench less than a minute in, forward Griffin Loughran took offense. He initiated a fight with sophomore defenseman Steve Holtz in front of Portillo. Both found themselves trading punches on the ice as referees scrambled to restore order.
“It’s important any time you play Michigan State, your rival,” Pearson said. “Just a solid effort … we’ve got a healthy hockey rivalry.”
Forward Mitchell Mattson added a goal for the Spartans less than two minutes later, but they were unable to put the game within reach. Samoskevich created space in the middle of the ice to net the Wolverines’ fifth goal, and a lengthy review with eight minutes left deemed Hughes scored before the Michigan State net was dislodged.
In a key Big Ten battle, Michigan fired on all cylinders for a demoralizing, signature win to open its home-and-home series with the Spartans.