In the movie Goodfellas, Henry Hill explains, “Whenever we needed money, we’d rob the airport. To us, it was better than Citibank.”
When Michigan hockey needs a win, they play Michigan State.
The Michigan Wolverines (27-9-1, 18-8) only trailed for less than four minutes in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals matchup with the Michigan State Spartans (12-23-1, 6-20) as they dominated each game by scores of 4-1 and 8-0.
Michigan completed the first ever six-game season sweep of the Spartans in the history of the rivalry. And to add embarrassment to domination, only two of the six games were kept within three or fewer goals. And the series could not have come at a better time for a Michigan team looking to regain momentum leading up to the NCAA Tournament.
In the first game, it seemed like more of the miserable same continuing from the Notre Dame losses the previous weekend: sluggish execution and a shaky Erik Portillo in net as Michigan State claimed to a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the contest.
That was the only lead and the only goal for the Spartans the rest of the weekend.
The Big Ten’s leading scorer Matty Beniers evened the score on the power play 3:28 later and the Wolverines were finally starting to resemble their pre-Olympic full strength unit. In the second period, freshman sensation Luke Hughes launched a nuclear wrister from the point to push Michigan ahead 2-1.
Game 2 saw Michigan immediately pick up where it left off, when sophomore Thomas Bordeleau opened up a prolific night of scoring :54 into the game. The Wolverines would add three more goals in the first period and four more in the second to take an 8-0 lead into the third.
A merciful third period saw the Wolverines cruise to victory and advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. In all, seven different Wolverines scored goals in this series.
- Portillo bounced back from his worst series of the season last weekend and finished this weekend with 46 saves on 47 shots, and two assists.
- Luke Hughes — who went scoreless against Notre Dame — accounted for four points over the weekend and now holds the single season goals AND points records for a Michigan freshman defenseman.
- Senior captain Nick Blankenburg had six points across the two games, including his first career four-point game in Game 2. Blankenburg’s malleability and physicality on the blue line is one of Michigan’s biggest weapons moving forward.
- Chemistry: It took longer than expected but by the second period of Game 1, Beniers, Kent Johnson, Brendan Brisson and Owen Power looked completely re-acclimated after their Olympic participation.
The Wolverines have now won 11 of their last 12 against Michigan State and are pursuing their first Big Ten Tournament Championship since 2016 and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which begins March 24.
The Wolverines will get their fifth crack the Notre Dame Fighting Irish next weekend in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament at Yost. The Fighting Irish are the only Big Ten opponent the Wolverines have not beaten this season.