Key Upsets Revive Michigan Hockey

Winter break was exactly what Michigan hockey needed to return to winning form. Since final exams ended, the Wolverines are 4-0, with three of their victories coming against top-ten teams. The team has played incredibly in the face of tough competition, and as Big Ten play continues, a league championship is no longer out of reach.

To begin the winning streak, the Wolverines traveled to Detroit to face Michigan Tech in the semi-finals of the 50th annual Great Lakes Invitational. Prior to the tournament, the Huskies had become the hottest team in hockey, surging to fifth in the USCHO rankings. As the puck dropped, it was clear the Wolverine defense would need to step up in order to stop Tech’s explosive offense. In short, they did just that. Goalie Steve Ra- cine made a season-high 40 saves, keeping a mostly overpowered Michigan team in the game. Ultimately, Zach Hyman scored late on a power play, giving the Wolverines the lead. In the end, despite a strong effort in the final minutes of the game, the Huskies were unable to get the puck past Racine, allowing Michigan to pull off the upset, 2-1.
The next day, Michigan faced off against Michigan State in the championship match of the GLI. Much like the previous game, defense was dominant for both teams. Racine once again was dominant in net, earning 31 saves and shutting down the Spartan offense. Throughout most of the game, the Wolverines held onto a two goal lead on goals from Hyman and Andrew Copp. Early in the 3rd period, Michigan
State was able to score on a tough shot through traffic, cutting the lead to one. While the final minutes were tense, the Wolverines prevailed, earning another 2-1 victory.

With the win over Michigan State, the Wolverines earned their 16th GLI title in team history—their first since 2011. The win also gave coach Red Berenson his 14th title with the team. “You come here and you walk away with that trophy, that’s important,” Berenson commented after the game. As classes resumed in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines prepared for a tough home stand against 9th ranked Minnesota. While the Gophers heavily outshot the struggling Wolverines, the team managed to hold a 2-1 lead entering the 3rd period. However, a late penalty from Copp allowed Minnesota to score two goals and retake the lead.

With time dwindling down, Justin Selman scored his first goal of the season to send the game to overtime. Fresh- man Cutler Martin was able to give the Wolverines the OT win with an incredible shot from the high slot. The final score in the upset was 4-3.

Michigan’s second game of the home stand was arguably the team’s best performance all year. The Wolverines exploded on offense, scoring four goals in the first period alone. Despite this, Minnesota kept the game close, taking advantage of power play opportunities and dropping Michigan’s lead to only one. Fortunately, the Wolverines scored in the final minutes of the third period, handing the Gophers another surprising upset, 7-5.

The weekend sweep of Minnesota also gave Berenson his 800th career win. Berenson is only the fourth coach in history to do so. Despite his success, Berenson remained humble. “I can tell you I’m not big on all that stuff,” he commented.

Michigan is currently 12-7 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten play. The team will look to continue their recent successes in Columbus in a match against Ohio State on January 16th. The puck drops at 7:05.

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About Jake Thorne

Jake Thorne is Editor-in-Chief of the Review, studying Honors Political Science and Economics at the University of Michigan. He has been an active contributor to the Review since 2014. He can be reached at jnthorne@umich.edu