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Michigan blasts Minnesota Duluth in first game of Duluth Ice Breaker

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The Wolverines made a big statement Friday night.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: FEB 01 Ohio State at Michigan
Garrett Van Wyhe scored a short-handed goal in Michigan’s 5-1 win over Minnesota Duluth on Friday.
Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This one had to feel good for the Michigan Wolverines’ hockey team.

They were unable to play Minnesota Duluth, then the two-time defending national champions, in last year’s NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19 protocols. So when they got another chance to take on the Bulldogs seven months later, they didn’t let it slip away.

Michigan is ranked No. 3 in the country by the USCHO and played like it in a 5-1 rout of Minnesota Duluth Friday night in the first game of the Duluth Ice Breaker Tournament at Amsoil Arena. Matty Beniers scored twice, Erik Portillo stopped 28-of-29 shots and the Wolverines went 2-of-3 on the power play en route to scoring the final five goals of the game.

The fifth-ranked Bulldogs came out the superior team, peppering Portillo with shots in the early going. They put 11 attempts on goal to Michigan’s two in the first 10 minutes and the 11th of those, a shot from close range by Jesse Jacques, found the net for a 1-0 lead.

But the Wolverines settled down and caught a huge break five minutes later when Noah Cates, one of UMD’s best players, elbowed Nick Blankenburg in the head and received a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct.

On the ensuing power play, Michigan took advantage. Luke Hughes scored his first collegiate goal, a sweet one-timer a minute before the end of the first period, to tie it at 1.

Hughes wasn’t the only Wolverine to make it onto SportsCenter Friday night. Brendan Brisson, Michigan’s leading goal-scorer through three games this season, made it 2-1 six minutes into the second period with a move that words don’t do justice.

Michigan dominated the second period, outshooting Minnesota Duluth 14-5. Beniers capitalized off a nice feed from Kent Johnson for his first goal of the young season.

The Wolverines struggled with discipline in their opening series against Lake Superior State, taking six penalties in each game. They weren’t much improved Friday night, getting sent to the box five times, but it didn’t prove to be a problem. They held UMD scoreless on the power play and actually outscored the Bulldogs, as Garrett Van Wyhe stole a pass and took it himself for a short-handed goal to make it 4-1.

Beniers finished things off, muscling home the puck after a long shot by Owen Power for his second goal.

For the Wolverines to settle in so well after a less-than-ideal start, especially against a veteran team like the Bulldogs, can only bode well for their potential moving forward. They’ll take on No. 1 Minnesota State today at 4:07 p.m. (CT).