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Two Down, One To Go

The Wolverines rolled the Spartans in the semifinal game to advance to the conference championship

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan 4 - Michigan State 1

Joe Wolke (@MnBJoe)

For a moment, it looked like Senior Night all over again.

The Wolverines were outshooting Michigan State 24-8 at the end of the 1st period and had just a one goal lead. When Matt Berry knocked in a goal midway through the second period, Jake Hildebrand was zoned in and poised to steal a spot in the Big Ten Championship.

Hildebrand would be the only Spartan to make an appearance for the rest of the game. With the rest of the team checking out, he kept them in this game by himself in the face of a barrage of shots until it became too much to overcome.

The Wolverines piled on shots finishing with a 49-27 advantage. Second, sometimes third chance opportunities were turned aside by the Spartan netminder until JT Compher broke it wide open, flying into the zone and lifting a top shelf blast above the glove of Hildebrand.

"I can’t say it was revenge, but more confidence and momentum, and maybe we had something to prove" Berenson said in the postgame.

That confidence was evident as Michigan would add two more goals in their preferred finesse fashion. On a third chance opportunity, Tyler Motte would swing around the net and find a streaking Boo Nieves down the middle for his first goal since the Minnesota series in February.

With a 3-1 lead all they needed was the dagger and it came from Alex Kile. The exclamation point on the night was the goal you could see coming from a mile away. The trademark Alex Kile goal, an emphatic drag move followed by a laser rip that put the game away.

On the other end, Steve Racine was fantastic. The Spartans weren't getting many quality looks in each period and would go long stretches without any at all, but when he needed to be there Racine answered the call.

David Malinowski (@dmmm14)

Against all odds, Michigan will be playing for a Big Ten title against Minnesota. For a team that has been on-again-off-again all year, it finally has a chance at redemption. There wasn't much to say about the Wolverines' battering of the Spartans, but here are a few of my takeaways from the game.
  • Red Berenson likened the game to already being in the NCAA tournament. It is win or go home, and after being only lightly-tested against Wisconsin and Michigan State, it'll have to climb Everest and play the most well-rounded team in the Big Ten for a chance to get into the tournament. Kill or be killed.
  • Speaking of two contests, Michigan will have to win its third game in three days to grab a bit to play for the Frozen Four. It won't get an at-large bid, and every other crazy scenario floating around the internet is exactly that: crazy.
  • Steve Racine was competent in goal, and the Wolverines still managed to leak almost 30 shots on goal against the Spartans. It's safe to say he's been pretty good at Joe Louis Arena this year.
  • There have been a host of narratives talking about Minnesota and how it is used to the bigger sheet of ice, but it's a stretch. The Gophers will dominate anyone at any time.
  • Alex Kile really stepped it up tonight, his hands and playmaking abilities in full swing. He largely stayed under the radar this year thanks to a ton of other noteworthy campaign. It'll be interesting how he fares against a Minnesota defense that doesn't cede as much space.
  • JT Compher is really coming on as of late, with 8 goals in his last 7 games after a quiet game. He won't ever be a bona fide first liner, but he has a lot of talent and it's always a pleasure to see it come through.
  • Dylan Larkin has been insane this week, so we'll see how Lucia tells his team how to tame him. He won't be going coast-to-coast like he did against Wisconsin, but he should be able to go to work behind the net and create some chances.
  • Adam Wilcox had an absolute meltdown last time the Wolverines played Minnesota in the state of Michigan. Don't count on that happening again.
  • Zach Werenski was used on the penalty kill against MSU. That's not a good idea if Michigan wants to win.

Up Next, it's all or nothing against Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship Game.