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Hockey earns sweep in Big Ten opener

Michigan played from behind in both games but came out on top

Duel In The D: Michigan v Michigan State Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines earned a pair of victories over the Wisconsin Badgers Thursday and Friday night to kick off their Big Ten season. Thursday’s game was decided by a score of 5-3, while Friday’s game was a hard-fought 2-1 game that went to overtime.

Wolverines respond to adversity

While both games turned out the right way for the Wolverines, this series against Wisconsin wasn’t as smooth of sailing as the series against Arizona State. Michigan often held a lead in shots, but the Wolverines were forced to play from behind in both games. In Thursday’s game, Michigan trailed 1-0 after the first period and didn’t find the net for the first time until the 15th minute of the second period. On Friday, Wisconsin again drew first blood two minutes into the second period and led until the Wolverines equalized in the 15th minute.

After Thursday’s game, Michigan head coach Mel Pearson said, “We got pushed around a little bit and had some adversity. We played from behind for the first time this year. How do you deal with that? And I thought our guys did a real good job.” The team did do a great job responding to adversity in both games of this series. Coming away with two wins against a quality Wisconsin team after trailing in both games is an achievement with a team as young as Michigan, and the experience will serve them well in the future.

It’s not just the kids that are alright

After the series against Arizona State, Michigan’s fantastic freshman (rightfully) received much of the acclaim. In this series against Wisconsin, much (but by no means all) of the offense flowed through others on the team. On Thursday, senior Michael Pastujov led the Wolverines with two goals. Sophmores Johhny Beecher and Eric Ciccolini also found the net for Michigan. On Friday, sophomore Nick Granowicz scored the equalizer in the second period for Michigan. And then junior Strauss Mann stopped 48 shots across the two games to earn a pair of victories.

This is all to say that it’s not just the acclaimed freshman class that will drive this team. There are many players capable of scoring for the Wolverines, and, as we highlighted last week, the team will likely enjoy a tailwind throughout the season from Mann’s steady presence in the net. With that being said, the freshman are indeed fantastic. Check out Thomas Bordeleau dropping a sick toe drag around a diving defender and tucking it in off the backhand to win in overtime last night.

Something’s happening here

It’s only four games into the season, but at this point I think one thing is readily apparent: Mel Pearson has himself a hockey team. The offense is lethal, the defense is stout, and Mann is strong in the net. The Wolverines have started 4-0 for the first time in almost a decade, and they’re averaging 4.5 goals per game. There is a long season ahead, but don’t sleep on the Wolverines. Great things could be ahead.

Michigan will next play at home against Notre Dame on Friday at 7:00 p.m. on BTN+ and on Saturday at a to-be-scheduled time on a yet-to-be-determined network. If you subscribe to BTN+, I struggle to think of a better thing to do at the end of a Thanksgiving week than to see what this team is capable of with your own eyes.