Wolverines blank Spartans in first game of rivalry series

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Wolverines blank Spartans in first game of rivalry series

Mitchell Lewandowski/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Mitchell Lewandowski/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Mitchell Lewandowski/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Mitchell Lewandowski/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Kyle Hatty, Hockey Beat Reporter

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EAST LANSING – Michigan State hosted in-state rival Michigan for the 327th time in the rivalry’s history at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans sit in a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten with the Wolverines only four points behind. The Wolverines are coming off of a sweep of Wisconsin to improve their conference record in 2020 to 7-1.

The Spartans are coming off a split at Minnesota. The Spartans swept the series earlier this season with a 4-3 comeback win in Ann Arbor and a 3-0 shutout at Munn a couple nights later. Tonight was different, Michigan got the lead and never let up to earn a 5-1 win on the road.

This matchup featured two of the hottest goalies in the Big Ten. On the Spartans end was John Lethemon, who leads the nation in save percentage with a .943 mark. For the Wolverines was Strauss Mann, who had led Michigan to this hot start to the second half of the year.

As expected, the game started fast and physical with high action and the scoring opened early. Michigan senior Jake Slaker made it 1-0 Wolverines about six minutes into the game off a one-timer. Michigan added to that lead only a couple minutes later after defenseman Luke Martin increased the lead to two. Michigan got a couple power plays in the first after that but never converted and took the 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Which was the killer according to head coach Danton Cole.

“Sometimes it’s more of an application thing than an understanding thing,” said Cole, “You get down sometimes and guys try to do too much.”

The middle period started fast, 19 seconds into the period Michigan got out on a rush and extended their lead to three thanks to winger Jacob Hayhurst. Michigan used their speed well all night and the Spartan defense never found an answer for it, Hayhurst’s goal was a great example of it. However, Michigan added to their comfortable lead with a Jack Summers goal from the point that went through a screen, seemingly putting the game out of reach for Michigan State.

The final period got underway with the Spartans having to kill off over a minute of a Wolverine power play. However, they would not go down without a fight, senior Captain Sam Saliba scored on the power play to give Michigan State their first goal of the night. Despite the goal, the captain was not happy with his or the team’s play tonight.

“That was our worst performance of the season to be honest with you,” said Saliba, “Just extremely disappointing and I think every guy in the locker room knows it.”

Michigan would take away any hopes of a comeback after adding a fifth goal thanks to Slaker’s second of the night with just under 8 to play. Michigan won the shot battle 38-27 en route to the dominating offensive performance. The night would end there and Michigan pulls out the dominating win with hopes to sweep the series with a win in Detroit on Monday.

STANDINGS: The Spartans remain at 31 points and the Wolverines win now puts them at 30 points on the season, re-entering their names in the conversation to win the conference.

UP NEXT: These two teams will face off again in Detroit on Monday for the annual ‘Duel in the D’ at Little Caesars Arena.