The Michigan Wolverines’ hockey team didn’t have some of it’s key players a week ago, and it showed, but they got them back and felt their contributions immediately. The Wolverines were able to sweep the defending national champions, the 10th ranked UMass Minutemen, 4-1 and 4-2 over the weekend.
It may not have looked like a dominating sweep in terms of goal differential, but anyone who watched both games could look at how they were won and know Michigan dominated puck-possession and offensive zone time. Those are two things the Wolverines do very well and better than almost any other team in college hockey.
Top Line Takeover
The tope line of Kent Johnson, Matty Beniers and Brendan Brisson combined for 10 points on the weekend. Brisson lead with way with five points of his own a with three goals and two assists on the weekend. The line hadn’t played together in two weeks but quickly got reacclimated with a dominating performance against the minutemen. Johnson, Brisson and Beniers are the team’s three leading scorers with 28, 27 and 26 points, and they attacked the strong point of UMass’ defensive core.
Holding Scott Morrow in Check
The Minutemen had been getting a lot of offense from their defenseman, and that started with Scott Morrow who led them in points. The Wolverines were able to take away, for the most part, his ability to create and sustain offense by holding him to zero points in both games. Morrow, a 2021 second round draft pick by Carolina, had a crucial turnover that changed the tide of Game 1. Morrow tried pass through Johnson and Brission which cause the turnover leading the two on one goal capped off by Beniers.
Portillo Continues to Stabilize the Net
Erik Portillo made his 22nd and 23rd straight starts and turned away 56 of 59 total shots faced. He finished the weekend with a 95% save percentage and continues to show even when Michigan has lapses or bad bounces in the defensive zone, he’s there to make the saves he’s supposed to.
D-Zone Coverage Still Needs Work
Michigan’s defensive zone looks better the last three games so far. They did fall victim to puck-watching and bounces more on the goals they did allow. They didn’t look unorganized in their coverage; it was really more of small details that lead to UMass’ goals. I still think the Wolverines need to improve on boxing players out in front of Portillo crease and try and limit the occasional bad defensive zone turnover.
On the flip side, if you only allow three goals on the weekend to a top 10 team like they played that has six NHL draft picks, you deserve to be noticed for improving that aspect of your team. I’m really nit-picking, but I guarantee they’ll be harping on that as well with the closer we get to tournament time.
Michigan was able to become only the second team to sweep UMass all season. The Minutemen hadn’t lost two in a row since their first two games of the season back in October against Minnesota State.
The Wolverines hope to carry over this momentum back into Big Ten play next weekend when they host Penn State. The Nittany Lions are making their first trip to Yost Ice Arena this year after Michigan swept them back in November.
The Wolverines currently sit in 2nd place in the Big Ten behind Minnesota, so this next six-game stretch is huge to decide who will win the conference.