Ann Arbor – Dexter Dancs enjoyed Michigan’s 7-4 win over Wisconsin so much that he hopes the Wolverines can play one more game in Yost Arena.
Dancs scored a pair of goals Saturday night to help the Wolverines earn a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal sweep of Wisconsin and in the process all but locked up an NCAA tournament bid.
Now, No. 11 Michigan (20-13-3) has a semifinal showdown at No. 6 Ohio State (23-8-5) Saturday while No. 12 Penn State (18-13-5) plays at No. 5 Notre Dame (23-9-2). The winners play in the Big Ten championship game March 17, and if the Wolverines and Penn State pull off upsets, the title game will be at Yost.
Dancs, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior, has teamed up with junior center Cooper Marody and senior Tony Calderone to give the Wolverines one of the premier lines in college hockey.
Dancs owns career-highs in goals (10) and points (22) while Marody ranks sixth nationally in scoring (12 goals, 44 points), and Calderone fourth in goals (23), a reason Michigan is No. 7 nationally in scoring (3.4), averaging 4.4 goals during their current seven-game winning streak.
“I love the team we have right now, we’re hot and we’re having a lot of fun,” Dancs said. “We’re getting contributions from a lot of people. We have a lot of trust from the guys in the locker room and I think the culture here is awesome. Everybody wants to win and everybody’s great friends here on the team and you need that to win.
“My line has played well. I feel Coop (Marody) is one of the best playmakers in the nation and I think Tony is the best goal scorer in nation. I think with me slotting in, I’ve been able to work hard, get pucks to them, go to the net, free up space, and it’s been a good fit for the three of us in terms of chemistry.
“Tony has been my best friend for four years now, played together pretty much our whole time here, so for him to get the assists on those goals (Saturday night) was pretty special and something we’ll be able to talk about for our whole lives.”
Calderone had four goals in the 6-5 opening-game win Friday, then had two assists in the clincher.
But things haven’t always been smooth for Dancs this season as Michigan first-year head coach Mel Pearson sat him down during the Feb. 3 game against Wisconsin, a 4-2 loss at Yost. It was the Wolverines’ last loss as Dancs and his teammates got the message, going 7-0-1 since, with Dancs earning a plus-6 rating during that span.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dexter, didn’t know him very well coming in,” said Pearson. “It took us a while to get to know him and it took him a while to understand what our expectations were and how we wanted to play. Not only him but our team, and once he understood that, things went well.
“He’s on a great line, that line has some chemistry. Dexter’s been very good.
“We sat him out one game this year. He got a little complacent and I know he wasn’t thrilled about it, but he wasn’t playing like a senior and there’s certain expectations we have on our seniors.
“We knew he’d be back in the lineup. It’s easy if you sit a marginal player. But if you sit out one of your top players it sends a message to everyone. It was just to show Dexter that there’s no entitlement.”
While Michigan is 12-3-1 in its last 16 games, the Buckeyes are 11-4-1 and own a 12-4-3 record at home.
Ohio State enters the semifinal with a four-game winning streak, including a 6-2, 4-3 (OT) quarterfinal sweep of Michigan State.
Michigan owned at least two wins against each Big Ten opponent aside from the Buckeyes, who swept the Wolverines 3-2 and 5-1 in Ann Arbor Nov. 24-25 and again 4-0 and 5-3 in Columbus Jan. 26-27.
Ohio State ranks fourth nationally in defense (2.08) and the Buckeyes have had outstanding special teams play, ranking first in penalty killing, giving up just 12 power-play goals in 127 chances while scoring 34 power play goals or on 23.6 percent of their chances to rank No. 8.
“They have balance, they play well defensively and they’re good from the net out,” said Pearson of the Buckeyes. “They all buy into the system, they play hard and they don’t give you much. It will be a good, old-fashioned Michigan-Ohio State game.
“We’ve won a lot of big road games this year. We have no problem being the underdog and we’ve talked about that a lot. I’m used to being the hunted and sometimes it’s a lot easier when you’re hunting. You don’t have to say much to our team about this week. They understand what’s going on, the circumstances and they understand it’s a huge challenge, but it’s a greater opportunity.”
MICHIGAN VS. OHIO STATE
What: Big Ten tournament semifinals
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
TV: Big Ten Network
Records: Michigan 20-13-3, Ohio State 23-8-5