The Michigan Wolverines (30-9-1) advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament with a dominant 5-3 victory over American International College (22-12-3).
Michigan — the No. 1 overall seed — dispelled any notion of an upset early in the first period. At the 16:23 mark, All-Planet freshman defenseman Luke Hughes navigated through the zone and sent a pass bouncing that ultimately found the stick of Garrett Van Whyte for his first goal since Dec. 10.
Just 39 seconds later, Michigan struck again. Matty Beniers eluded an aggressive defender on the right side, dropped a pass off to Brendan Brisson, who fired a perfect cross-ice pass to Ethan Edwards. Score.
The Wolverines led 2-0 less than four minutes into the game, but the Yellow Jackets were not going quietly into the good night.
At the 7:28 mark of the first period, a chaotic bouncing puck from Brian Rigali deflected off the back of Hughes and found its way past a sprawled Erik Portillo down on the ice, 2-1.
The Wolverines began what would be a high scoring second period on a power play stemming from an interference penalty that was called with no time remaining in the first. Just 43 seconds into the power play, Michigan lit the lamp.
Kent Johnson fed the puck to Owen Power at the point who sent a perfect pass to Brisson on the opposite side for the top shelf one-timer. Two minutes later, KJ hit them with the spin-o-rama and fed Brisson, who found Beniers backdoor to make it 4-1. Bang, bang, bang.
A resilient AIC would answer less than four minutes later when Justin Young cleaned up a drive from Chris Theodore and cleanly beat Portillo five-hole. 4-2.
Only 28 seconds after that, Michigan smothered any lingering hope when the physical freshman Dylan Duke fired home a rebound for the third Wolverine goal of the period. Fellow freshman Mackie Samoskevich and Power were credited with assists, but it was Johnny Beecher’s neutral zone aggressiveness that created this opportunity.
It was 5-2 Wolverines after two periods.
In the third period, the Wolverines fell back into their old bad habit of fighting boredom with with sloppy play before committing an untimely penalty. The Yellow Jackets cashed in against a lethargic Michigan penalty kill to make it 5-3 with 6:12 remaining in the third.
This late goal was enough to startle the Wolverines and fuel them to finishing off AIC by a final of 5-3.
Portillo stopped 26-of-29 shots and seemed to struggle early with lateral movement due to inconsistent activity. The first allowed goal was more fortunate chaos than anything else, but the second goal allowed is one he’d love to have back. The third allowed goal was on the penalty kill unit hanging their goaltender out to dry.
The Wolverines overwhelmed AIC in all aspects of the game and talent gap was obvious from the drop of the puck. However, this is a good win to refocus the Wolverines and remind them of what it will take to bring home gold.
Michigan will need a sharper performance from the Swedish net minder and a COMPLETE 60-minute performance from the entire team in the next round if they are going to make it to Boston.
The Wolverines play Quinnipiac at 6:30 p.m. Sunday for a shot at the Frozen Four.