UM, MSU hockey to vie for new ‘Iron D’ trophy
Ann Arbor — When it comes to Michigan and Michigan State, bragging rights take center stage.
Best football team. Best basketball team. Most exciting coach.
Then there’s the well-known trophy that goes with one of the bragging rights: the Paul Bunyan trophy, awarded annually to the team that wins the football matchup.
Now, the teams have another trophy to play for — in hockey.
It’s called the “Iron D,” and will be awarded to the winner of Friday night’s game at Joe Louis Arena.
And it recent history has anything to say, Michigan very well could go home with the trophy for the first time. The Wolverines are 7-3 against the Spartans since 2014, winning five of the last six and three consecutive.
“I think you throw out the records and past games and who has what points,” Michigan junior captain J.T. Compher said. “It (also) means a lot for us to get points.”
The biggest reason for Michigan’s success this season — it won 9-2 and 6-3 in January — is its top line of freshman Kyle Connor and juniors Tyler Motte and Compher.
The trio combined for 12 points (five goals) in the 9-2 victory and has scored 38 goals the last 12 games (9-1-2).
Motte is the nation’s leading goal scorer (22), while Connor leads the nation with 42 points. Compher, the center, has 36 points (nine goals).
“We’ve been able to win some big games, but we still have some room to improve,” Compher said.
And while the players aren’t looking ahead, Michigan’s nemesis looms the last weekend of the regular season: Penn State.
The Wolverines have lost six of nine to the Nittany Lions, threatening their chance to win the Big Ten. They changed that last weekend with 7-4 and 6-3 victories over the Nittany Lions.
That has Michigan, ranked No. 5 and leading the nation in scoring (5.0 goals), sitting tied with Minnesota atop the Big Ten standings at 7-1-2.
“We have good chemistry and we all bring something different to the line,” Compher said.
“As a center, it’s easy to play with two goal-scorers (Connor and Motte had two goals apiece in the 7-4 victory over Penn State), and that’s what Tyler and Kyle have been.”
In Michigan’s 6-3 comeback victory over at Madison Square Garden, Compher scored a short-handed goal in the second period, then during a four-goal third period found Motte in front for a 5-3 cushion with just over five minutes remaining to put the game away.
Motte and Connor have scored 15 goals apiece in the last 12 games.
And they may need that this weekend against Michigan State, which is near the bottom of the Big Ten at 2-8-0.
“When you play State you know it’s going to be a battle,” Compher said.
Faceoff: 7:30 tonight, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
Records: No. 5 Michigan 16-3-4 (7-1-2 Big Ten), Michigan State 6-18-2 (2-8-0)
Outlook: Michigan is 14-10-4 against Michigan State in conference games played at Joe Louis Arena since February 1991. ... The teams play again at 5 p.m. Saturday in East Lansing.