It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.
The Michigan Wolverines (13-8-1) have developed a habit this season of dropping the Friday night game, and bouncing back to win the Saturday game. This weekend was the epitome of Michigan’s Jekyll and Hyde tendencies.
On Friday night, the Wolverines were awful. It was the worst game end-to-end Michigan has played in the last five years. Michigan looked disinterested, indecisive, and the lack of effort was alarming.
The 7-2 home loss to the Buckeyes was Michigan’s worst defeat at Yost since 1999, and their worst home loss ever to the Buckeyes. Michigan was out-shot 52-21 and accrued 33 penalty minutes.
The Wolverines’ lone bright spots were Dylan Duke who scored both Michigan goals, and shockingly goalie Erik Portillo despite allowing seven goals (I’m being serious). Portillo made huge save after huge save —45 in all which set a career high— and kept Michigan alive a lot longer than they deserved with how they were playing in front of him. At one point, Ohio State had 19 straight shots on goal before the Wolverines could muster one of their own.
Interim head coach Brandon Naurato and team captain Nolan Moyle challenged the team after the game to respond on Saturday. 18 seconds into the second game, things did not look good.
Ohio State continued with their aggressive approach and opened up a one-goal lead before Michigan knew what hit them. But this time, the Wolverines had a response.
Less than halfway through the period, Mackie Samoskevich went top shelf for the equalizer.
Mackie goes top shelf! pic.twitter.com/tmRdhXEfC5— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) January 14, 2023
Adam Fantilli and Jacob Truscott were credited with assists and this trio was not finished for the period. Roughly seven minutes later, Truscott batted home a loose puck and Fantilli and Samo were credited with the assists to give Michigan a 2-1 lead after the first.
In the second period, Michigan’s intensity continued to rise on the forecheck and their decisiveness shown through on the back check. Jackson Hallum and Jay Keranen had one of their best games of the season defensively with blocked shots and zone clearance.
After giving up four power play goals the night before, the Wolverines killed all four Buckeye man-advantages in this one. In the final five minutes of the second period, Michigan extended their lead to 3-1 when Gavin Brindley —still riding high from his excellent showing at World Juniors— scored a scrappy point-blank goal after a back hand feed from Seamus Casey; Truscott secured his third-point of the night with the secondary assist.
Nine minutes into the third period, Ohio State cut Michigan’s lead to one. After a back and forth period, the Wolverines went on the power play at the 5:22 mark of the third period and looked to ice the game against the best and most dangerous penalty-killing unit in the country,
Defenseman Luke Hughes worked the point, drifted left, and found Rutger McGroarty for an absolute SNIPE to ice the game 4-2.
A power-play goal by McGroarty to pad the lead pic.twitter.com/F2wvGpGb8S— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) January 14, 2023
Jackson Hallum would be credited with the secondary assist.
Saturday’s victory was the most important win of Michigan’s season and showed a resolve against one of the hottest teams in the country —Ohio State had won six-straight after Friday’s victory.
While the Wolverines still need to shake-off their Friday game one blues down the stretch in Big Ten play, when this team is at their best, they can beat any team in the country. A massive revenge showdown with second-ranked Minnesota looms for the Wolverines next weekend in Minneapolis.
Minnesota is the only team to sweep Michigan this season, but accomplished this against a shorthanded Michigan team whose roster had been ravaged due to illness.