Ann Arbor — Michigan answered every Wisconsin goal with one or more of its own Saturday night at Yost Arena to defeat the Badgers 7-4 and sweep the Big Ten League Hockey quarterfinal series.
The No. 12 Wolverines (20-13-3) will carry a seven-game winning streak into next Saturday’s single-elimination semifinal game at No. 6 Ohio State. Wisconsin (14-19-4) ended the season with a six-game losing streak.
Sure, Michigan swept the series and is closing in on its second Big Ten tournament title in the last three years, but more importantly it all but locked up one of the 16 spots for the NCAA Tournament, now sitting No. 8 in the all-important Pairwise rankings.
After scoring four power-play goals in battling back from a 3-1 deficit in Friday’s 6-5 win, the Wolverines scored six even-strength goals to take a 6-3 lead early in the third period of Game 2 and held on for the win with their final goal coming by Jake Slaker with 18 seconds left on an empty-netter.
“I thought we were more ready to play tonight, better from the get-go, having said that Frederic gets free, goes in and scores and we’re down 1-to-nothing right off the bat, but I thought our team battled better, managed the puck better and obviously the shots on goal weren’t as high,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said.
“I’m really happy for our seniors. If this was their last game at Yost, which it might be, it would be a good way to go out. I love playoff hockey on campus. I thought the fans were entertained for two games and I’m just very pleased to be moving on.”
The semifinal games will be played on campus sites with Michigan playing at No. 2 seed Ohio State while top-seeded Notre Dame — which received a first-round bye – will host Penn State.
The only way Michigan would play another game this season at Yost is if the Wolverines, the No. 3 seed, upset Ohio State and No. 4 seed Penn State upsets Notre Dame. The championship game is set for March 17 at the highest remaining seed.
Senior Dexter Dancs scored a pair of goals (ninth, 10th) after his linemate, senior Tony Calderone scored a Texas hat trick (four goals) in the opener Friday.
Michigan did come out ready to play in Game 2 after giving up three goals on eight shots before the first period was halfway through in the opener, and allowing 53 shots for the game.
Michigan sophomore Hayden Lavigne only had to face 32 shots Saturday, but Wisconsin scored just 23 seconds into the game when Trent Frederic took Ryan Wagner’s pass and buried it past Lavigne with a wrist shot from between the circles.
But, Michigan quickly bounced back with a goal by Dancs with 15:42 left in the period.
The line of Cooper Marody, Calderone and Dancs had been dangerous all weekend and would continue to do damage.
It looked like Michigan took a 2-1 lead when Adam Winborg re-directed a shot past Jack Berry with 6:41 left in the opening period, but the goal was waived off.
Freshman Jack Becker, who de-committed from Wisconsin, made sure the Wolverines would still take that 2-1 lead when he scored from between the circles off a pass from Nick Pastujov just 22 seconds later.
Michigan took the 3-1 lead when Brendan Warren scored 53 seconds into the second period, nearly 30 seconds after Lavigne came up with a big save on a point-blank shot by Frederic.
Then, after Cameron Hughes pulled Wisconsin within 3-2 with 13:52 left in the middle period, Michigan scored a beautiful goal on an odd-man rush after great, lightning quick passes from Niko Porikos, who carried the puck across the blue line, to defenseman Joseph Cecconi and back to Porikos who found Dakota Raabe who scored from the right circle for a 4-2 lead.
Raabe’s goal came just 26 seconds after Hughes scored.
Frederic scored his second of the night when he beat Lavigne with a high shot near the midway point of the middle period to cut the deficit to 4-3 and the Badgers could have scored more if not for a pair of great saves by Lavigne.
First, Lavigne made a save on Seamus Malone’s breakaway on a short-handed situation, then made another save on a Linus Weissbach’s breakaway five minutes later.
Lavigne’s stops set the scene for Michigan to open up another two-goal lead, a back-breaker when Dancs took a pass from Calderone and beat Berry with a wrist shot from the left circle with 7.7 seconds left in the period.
“It’s been an awesome ride here at Yost, sad it’s coming to an end, but it was pretty special to have the Big Ten (quarterfinals) here, first time they’ve done this,” said Dancs, who talked of his second goal to give the Wolverines a 5-3 lead. “To be honest I didn’t know there was 7 seconds left on the clock. We were in the middle of shift and I shot and it went in for a good goal.”
Michigan opened up a 6-3 lead when defenseman Griffin Luce scored from the left point with the help of a screen from Pastujov with 17:36 left.
Wisconsin did pull within 6-4 and pulled its goalie for the extra attacker with nearly five minutes left, but couldn’t get any closer.
(At) Ohio State 4, Michigan State 3, OT: Freddy Gerard's goal at 5:53 of overtime gave Ohio State (23-8-5) the series sweep and ended Michigan State's season. Cody Milan, Patrick Khodorenko and Tommy Apap scored for the Spartans (12-22-2).