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Hockey splits series against Michigan State to open second half of the season

Michigan cruised to victory in the first game, but the Spartans bounced back in the second

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

Michigan opened the second half of their hockey season with a dominant 9-0 win over Michigan State on Friday. Nine different players scored for the Wolverines, with Freshman Kent Johnson tallying four assists to go along with his goal to lead the team with five points. On Saturday, the game was more closely contested. Michigan took a 2-1 lead late with 4:38 remaining in the third period, but the Spartans scored twice in the final 2:01 to take the 3-2 win.

Michigan could do no wrong in the first game

After the first game, Head Coach Mel Pearson remarked that “Our guys were ready to go. . . . I thought we’d be a little more rusty that we were but credit to our players. They were ready to go, they were hungry.” That hunger was on display throughout the game. The Wolverines took initiative with the puck, they found open space on the ice, and they capitalized on their chances. Michigan even benefited from a few fortunate bounces like this goal from Jack Becker, where the pass from Eric Ciccolini bounces off a Michigan State defender’s skate and goes right to Becker in front of the net.

The first and second game were completely different

Sure, the scores tell you that the first and second game were completely different, but there’s a broader point here. Michigan imposed its will on Friday, scoring seven of their nine goals at even strength. The Wolverines were able to move the puck, create quality scoring chances, and largely do what they wanted. Saturday was a much more even game, with Michigan State’s defense disrupting the Wolverine attack and limiting the quality of scoring chances for Michigan. It’s not surprising that the Spartans would make adjustments after getting demolished the night before, but the Wolverines need to be able to adjust to opposing team’s adjustments in order to remain potent in the offensive zone.

Michigan still could have won the second game

While Michigan State deserves credit for their improved defensive performance in the second game, it was still a game that Michigan could have—and very well should have—won. The Wolverines mustered 40 shots, compared to the Spartans’ 25, and out-shot Michigan State 14 to 5 in the third period. The quality of the scoring chances weren’t as good as they were in the first game, but great teams convert the chances they have and Michigan wasn’t able to do that down the stretch on Saturday. Head Coach Mel Pearson discussed his frustration with how the second game went during his post-game press conference:

Michigan will be back in action next Friday and Saturday against Ohio State. Both games will start at 7:00 p.m., with the Friday game being broadcast on BTN+ and the Saturday game being broadcast on BTN.