The second-ranked Michigan Wolverines (23-7-1) have a score to settle with the No. 11/12 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (21-9-2) this weekend. More than the obvious importance of being the greatest collegiate rivalry in all of sports, Michigan’s last regular season loss — and worst loss of the season — came to the Buckeyes on Dec. 11 by a score of 6-1.
Entering this series, Michigan is WHITE hot having won nine of 10 games and outscored opponents by a margin of 48-12. Despite being without their top four scorers due to Olympic participation, the Wolverines have not missed a beat.
Quick tangent on Olympic participation: HOW does a team that features Matty Beniers not use him in a shootout situation? Doubling down (*POUNDING ON THE TABLE*), how does Team USA not use a natural goal scorer when their Olympic hopes are on the line? This is like if Jim Harbaugh had three options to run the ball in from the one-yard line, looked at Hassan Haskins and just said, “Nah.”
Michigan defenseman Luke Hughes (13 goals, 16 assists) is coming off a six-point weekend against Michigan State and leads all defensemen nationally with 13 goals. Hughes is among five active Wolverines this weekend with 20+ points and is followed by: Thomas Bordeleau (AND KING OF DRIP), Mackie Samoskevich, Nick Blankenburg and Michael Pastujov in the 20-point club.
The Buckeyes will look to keep pace with a triumvirate of scorers comprised of Georgii Merkulov (18 goals, 32 assists), Jake Wise (10 goals, 16 assists), and Cam Theising (eight goals, 16 assists). Freshman defenseman Mason Lohrei (four goals, 25 assists) has been a difference maker creating shots for others all season.
In the net, freshman Jakub Dobes has been outstanding for the Buckeyes. Dobes leads the country in saves (896) and is third nationally in save percentage (.934).
Michigan sophomore goalie Erik Portillo is second only to Dobes in saves with 827 of his own and ranked No. 7 nationally with a .926 save percentage. The one statistical advantage Portillo has over Dobes, however, is the most important: wins.
Portillo is second nationally in wins with 23, (Dobes is T-8) only trailing Minnesota State’s Dryden McKay. The Super Swede has not allowed more than three goals in a game since... Ohio State in December.
Ohio State has been of the top stories in college hockey this season. The Buckeyes were picked to finish last in the Big Ten in the Coaches Poll and now find themselves deep in the national mix.
In their first series of the season back in December, the Wolverines took the first game 5-2 and the Buckeyes returned the favor the following night.
Can the Wolverines clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title this weekend?
How to watch
Friday (2/18): 7:30 p.m., Yost Ice Arena
Watch: CW50, BIG+
Saturday (2/19): 8:30 p.m., Yost Ice Arena (Senior Night)
Watch: Big Ten Network