Thursday night, the second-ranked Michigan hockey (6-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) opened conference play against the University of Wisconsin (3-5, 1-1) in the first game of a two-game home series that would go through last Friday.
The Wolverines, who had just split a two-game series with No. 13 Western Michigan the weekend prior, looked to once again assert themselves as the best team in the nation after moving down from No. 1 to No. 2 in the most recent rankings. Michigan Hockey was looking to get things rolling early in conference play.
In the first game of the series, Michigan came out with a purpose, putting a total of 41 shots on net. At the end of the first period, the game was still scoreless; however, this tie would not last long.
Shortly after the start of the second period, sophomore forward Kent Johnson netted the first goal of the game. Following Johnson’s goal, senior defenseman Nick Blankenburg stretched the Michigan lead to two goals as the second period came to a close.
Michigan Hockey would take home game one, but wind up splitting the series.
Michigan’s offense would keep humming in the third period as sophomore defender Owen Power, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NHL draft, would push the lead to three goals and seal a Wolverine victory.
Sophomore goaltender Erik Portillo would end the night with 28 saves and zero goals allowed. This shutout gave the Michigan offense time to warm up and score without the pressure of a Wisconsin comeback and was essential to the Wolverines’ success.
In game two played the following night, Michigan’s luck seemingly ran out. After manhandling the Badgers the night before, Michigan could not find the rhythm they had the night prior on offense or on defense.
After finding themselves with an early two-goal defect, the Wolverines bounced back with a power-play goal scored by sophomore forward Kent Johnson. Wisconsin would match Michigan’s goal with one of their own, giving the Badgers a 3-1 to start the period.
Though Michigan managed to net another goal making it a 3-2 Wisconsin lead late in the third period, would then capitalize off of the Wolverines empty net and leave with a 4-2 victory.
Though the split is disappointing for an extremely talented Michigan roster, all eyes will now turn to next weekend’s series against Michigan State (4-3-1, 1-1), which will start on Friday, November 6th. Game one of the series will be played in Ann Arbor and will be a maize-out crowd.