Michigan hockey had a chance to pick up two wins against a sub-.500 Ohio State team this weekend, but things didn’t go according to plan. Despite out-shooting the Buckeyes by a nearly two-to-one margin on Friday, the Wolverines lost 3-2. On Saturday, Michigan bounced back with a commanding performance and won 6-0.
After last week’s series against Wisconsin, we talked about there being rust from the extended break and needing to regain the stamina necessary to play well in both games of a series. This has been an issue at a couple points this season. In early January, in the first series back from the holiday break, Michigan dominated Michigan State 9-0 before dropping the second game 3-2. Last week, again after an extended break, the Wolverines had a strong 5-1 win against Wisconsin before again dropping the second game 3-2. This series, Michigan had trouble getting started against an inferior team and lost the first game before finding their stride in the second game. After the game, Head Coach Mel Pearson talked about the team being “off” and things not going their way. He’s certainly right about that, but the team needs to find a way to fight through those games and come away with victories. They’re too talented not to.
Portillo looks more human
After freshman goaltender Erik Portillo delivered a strong performance in his start last week against Wisconsin, he had a much more frustrating outing this week in his start against Ohio State. The first goal that he surrendered on Friday was a weird play behind the net where he went behind to help play the puck along but was never able to control it, leading to an Ohio State wrap-around goal into the empty net. The second goal was another weird play that may have been an attempted dump into the far corner for a charging forward or just a long shot that didn’t look very dangerous but was tipped and found the net. The third goal was redirected right in front of Portillo and there wasn’t much he could do. While this was a game to forget for Portillo, his future is still extraordinarily bright. He is immensely talented and will only get better as he gets more starts.
Michigan needs to win, now
Last week we talked about Michigan needing wins to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament. This split against Ohio State does not help their situation. After this weekend, the Wolverines are sitting in 20th place in the pairwise rankings. While some teams may not meet the 20-game minimum for an at-large bid to the tournament (assuming that requirement is kept in this COVID-affected season), Michigan is still probably on the outside looking in right now. With games remaining against Arizona State, at Minnesota, and at Michigan State, the Wolverines need to win and climb in those rankings or else earn the automatic bid by winning the Big Ten Tournament.
Michigan will be back in action on Friday and Saturday against Arizona State. Both games will start at 7:00 p.m., with TV coverage yet to be announced.