They’ve won with high scoring. They’ve won scoring only once. They’ve won with a terrific power play. They’ve won with a feeble power play. They’ve won with great goaltending play. They’ve won when the netminder has an off night. Nothing can stop Michigan Hockey, winners of 7 in a row in regulation, with the 8th being a shootout win over rival Michigan State. It’s been 29 days since Michigan lost a game and they are now 20-13-3 on the season, cruising towards the NCAA Tournament and the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
This weekend was the quarterfinal matchup, a best 2-out-of-3 series against #6 seed Wisconsin. Friday night’s crazy game ended 6-5, one in which Michigan captain Tony Calderone scored 4 goals and the Wolverines prevailed despite being thoroughly outplayed in the contest. Saturday it was Michigan who controlled the tempo of play, save for a Wisconsin goal 27 seconds in. Michigan would jump out to 3-1, 4-2, and 6-3 leads in the game, with 2 big goals from Dexter Dancs, along with tallies by Griffin Luce, Brendan Warren, Dakota Raabe, and Jack Becker. That’s been the story of this second half resurgence for Michigan: diversified scoring. All 4 lines have been chipping in and it’s powered the Wolverines on a 12-3-1 run in their last 16 games.
Wisconsin would cut the Michigan lead to 6-4, but Jake Slaker would fire the puck in the empty net with under 20 seconds remaining to send the Yost crowd home happy, leaving the final score at 7-4. Michigan will now advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals against Ohio State next weekend, the only team Michigan hasn’t played well against this season, going 0-4 versus the Buckeyes in the 2017-18 campaign. But in a one game playoff, anything can happen, and these Wolverines will be hungry for revenge.
They keep finding ways to win and with it, they’ve transformed themselves from a 8-10-2 team whose hopes at an NCAA Tournament berth were fading away to one that will make the NCAA Tournament regardless of next weekend’s result. Michigan continues to climb the PairWise rankings, which are used to select the 16 teams into the NCAA Tournament. Anywhere above spot 12 or 13 is considered safe entering the last few weekends of hockey and Michigan finds themselves at #8 as the weekend concludes. That will put them into the tournament for just the second time in six seasons.
The Wolverines have drastically exceeded expectations in Head Coach Mel Pearson’s first season behind the bench, and they have a chance to go even further. Whether or not the season ends in a Big Ten Tournament Title or a Frozen Four appearance, this run and this season have been special for fans of Michigan Hockey. It was a dandy to watch this weekend and we should savor it however much longer it lasts.
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