Michigan Wolverines Hockey Sweeps Michigan State For 'Iron D' Trophy
With Friday night’s 5-3 win over rival Michigan State, Michigan’s hockey team gave head coach Mel Pearson a fitting 60th birthday present.
They saved the best gift for last, though, besting the Spartans 24 hours later Saturday night, 5-2, in the annual “Duel in the D” matchup at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.
The long-awaited weekend series sweep was the first of its kind since the Wolverines doubled up St. Lawrence at Yost Ice Arena in late October and elevated Michigan into second place in the Big Ten standings.
“You’re not going to find many birthday presents to beat that — beat Michigan State in front of a full house at Yost Ice Arena knowing we’re tied in the standings, so thank you to the team,” said a thankful Pearson of Friday’s win. “I’m sure they weren’t worried about that as they were playing the game.”
In the series opener, sophomore forwards Michael Pastujov and Jack Becker each scored a pair of goals, pacing Michigan’s offensive effort. Junior forward Will Lockwood added a goal and two assists. Junior goaltender Hayden Lavigne turned aside 20 Spartan shots in the win.
“I thought we were okay tonight,” Pearson said. “We just didn’t play our best game. We got some bounces, some breaks that went in for us tonight. We finally got some separation [in the score]. We have done that many times this year. You could tell that we haven’t played with the lead very often lately. We get away from our game. We get up a little bit and we think we’re going to change some things or we take a bad penalty. We’ve got to clean some things up.”
Pastujov’s offensive outburst on Friday was a much-needed and long-awaited awakening.
“We sat him out a while ago,” Pearson explained. “He came in and we had a good talk at length about what direction his game was headed. He had to make some changes. First and foremost, it started with nothing with the puck; it’s without it. He had started working harder, competing harder; usually when you do that things start to turn your way. That’s what happened.
“He’s always been a skilled player, but you have to have more to your game than just being skilled. You have to backcheck. You have to forecheck. You have to win battles along the boards. You have to block some shots. You got to play strong on your stick. He’s doing those things. Good for Mike. He took that conversation. He didn’t sulk. He just went and started to play better.”
“Pucks are finding me right now,” Pastujov confirmed. “It feels good.”
Lockwood added his eighth goal in the last 10 games on Saturday, supplemented by a pair of markers and an assist from freshman forward Nolan Moyle. Sophomore forwards Dakota Raabe and Luke Morgan added a goal each in the Wolverine sweep of the Spartans.
“It was a tough game,” Pearson pointed out after Saturday's contest. “I thought Michigan State did a good job of clogging things up. They played strong. They played physical. We had to work for our goals all weekend. We got some bounces, some breaks.”
Freshman netminder Strauss Mann’s 21 saves included several in the game’s biggest moments.
“I can’t say enough about our goaltender Strauss Mann,” Pearson concluded. “I thought he stood out tonight, maybe didn’t have that may saves, but I thought he had some great saves on some of their top players. I think he was the real difference in the hockey game. Strauss kept the game close. I felt bad for him that he gave a couple goals up.”
Quote Of The Weekend
“I just told the team tonight that when you leave the rink tonight, this game’s over. So, when you go downstairs and someone tells you, your friends or family, that you played a great game, just say thank you, but we have to be better. We have to be better tomorrow. And start preparing for tomorrow night’s game. The preparation starts when you walk down the stairs of our locker room tonight.” — Michigan head coach Mel Pearson’s message to the team after Friday’s win
Michigan Hockey Three Stars Of The Weekend
First Star — Junior forward Will Lockwood
Lockwood continued his goal-scoring with two goals and two assists in the series sweep of the Spartans.
Second Stars — Sophomore forwards Michael Pastujov (2A) and Jack Becker (2B)
Pastujov and Becker kick-started the Wolverine offense Friday night with a pair of goals apiece.
Third Star — Freshman goalie Strauss Mann
Mann’s 21-save effort on Saturday helped seal the Michigan weekend sweep.
Before a deserved weekend respite next week, Michigan travels to South Bend Tuesday night in a crucial game in the Big Ten race as the regular season winds down.
Other Weekend Big Ten Hockey Action
Minnesota 2 at No. 18 Penn State 7 (Fri.)
Minnesota 2 at No. 18 Penn State 6 (Sat.)
Notre Dame idle
No. 3 Ohio State 2 at Wisconsin 1 (OT) (Fri.)
No. 3 Ohio State 4 at Wisconsin 1 (Sat.)