By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 7, 2014
The Michigan hockey team only hosts Michigan State at Yost Ice Arena for one game this season, but Friday, it scored enough for an entire series.
Behind three second-period goals and a hat trick from junior defenseman Andrew Sinelli, the 11th-ranked Wolverines trounced the Spartans, 7-1, for their third straight win over the in-state rivals.
The result keeps Michigan (9-6-2-1 Big Ten, 17-10-4 overall) four points behind second-place Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings. The top two teams at the end of the regular season earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
It took the Wolverines just 56 seconds and only one shot to get on the scoreboard. Making the most of a turnover and confusion behind Michigan State’s net, junior forward Alex Guptill slid a pass into the slot through two defenders, where senior forward Derek DeBlois easily found twine.
By the end of the second frame, Michigan was scoring with such ease that each goal was little cause for celebration. When Sinelli’s innocuous wrister caromed in off a Spartan player for the Wolverines’ fifth tally of the evening, the junior simply shrugged.
“My first two goals were garbage,” Sinelli said after the game.
Michigan’s offense took just 17 shots through 40 minutes but tallied in nearly every way imaginable.
At 7:46 of the first frame, senior forward Luke Moffatt broke up a pass, raced down the ice for a partial breakaway and threaded the needle with a shot that ricocheted off the post and past Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand’s glove side.
And in the second period, the Wolverines scored more goals (3) than Michigan State had shots (1).
“That’s the most dominant period I think we’ve had all year,” said sophomore netminder Steve Racine. “We just really took it to them.”
Less than six minutes into that second period, Michigan’s suddenly potent power play struck on its first opportunity of the night. Guptill again played his part with an assist, taking a hard wrister that junior forward Zach Hyman redirected to make it 3-1.
Even Spartan defenseman RJ Boyd played his part — though mistakenly — with an inadvertent deflection of a centering pass from junior forward Phil Di Giuseppe into his own net to bury his team in a three-goal hole.
Sinelli added his first before the intermission.
“College hockey is a game of momentum,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “This is classic home ice tonight. We took advantage of it, and the puck went in for us.”
The forward-turned-defenseman wasn’t done, firing in a long rebound for a 6-1 lead at 7:31 of the third period and another with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
“The thing that is good for us is we only gave up one goal, which is something we’ve been struggling with lately,” Sinelli said.
The Spartans (3-8-6-4, 9-16-7) found twine late in the first period but were then held scoreless for the remainder of the contest. Forward Matt Berry collected an opportune rebound from a shot off the post and had plenty of time to slide the puck into an open net, briefly turning the game into a close affair.
It wasn’t that competitive again until late in the third period, when scuffles and late hits resulted in penalties for both teams. But Michigan stayed composed through the ordeal and set up a chance for a sweep in East Lansing Saturday.