Crowd fuels Michigan hockey in win vs. OSU: ‘I thought the roof was going to blow off’

ANN ARBOR – Michigan senior captain Nick Blankenburg has played dozens of home games at Yost Ice Arena during his four-year career, but he can’t recall a crowd as emphatic as the one in attendance for Friday’s showdown against Ohio State.

With the second-ranked Wolverines zeroing in on their first Big Ten title since the conference was formed in 2014, Blankenburg gave the sold-out crowd of 5,800 an assist for the team’s pivotal 5-3 win over the 11th-ranked Buckeyes.

The defenseman’s power-play goal with 6 minutes, 41 seconds remaining gave the team a 4-3 lead and sent the crowd into a frenzy.

The fans didn’t relent the rest of the game as the Wolverines’ staved off the Buckeyes in the final minutes, including killing a penalty late in the game. Freshman defenseman Luke Hughes stamped a 5-3 victory with an empty-net goal in the final minute as Michigan extended its win streak to six.

“I was telling the guys, I will have chills for the rest of my life hearing how loud that crowd was the last two minutes,” Blankenburg said postgame. “I don’t think I had ever heard it this loud before.”

Friday’s matchup was the Wolverines’ second-to-last home game of the regular season, and head coach Mel Pearson said it was evident the crowd knew what was at stake. Michigan (24-7-1, 15-6) maintained its two-point lead over Minnesota for first place in the conference and it also eliminated the Buckeyes (21-10-2, 13-8-2) from title contention.

“Just an unbelievable crowd,” Pearson said. “The crowds have been outstanding. I’ve been all over college hockey and new buildings and this and that, but nothing rivals Yost Ice Arena and our fans. They make a difference. I thought the roof was gonna blow off this place after our fourth goal.”

Michigan has surged since Jan. 1, winning 11 of 12. It has been without its two Canadian Olympians – defenseman Owen Power (2021 No. 1 overall draft pick) and forward Kent Johnson (2021 No. 5 overall selection) — for the past five games and its two American Olympians – forwards Matty Beniers (2021 No. 2 overall pick) and Brendan Brisson (2020 first-round selection) – for the past three.

But the team hasn’t missed a beat, outscoring opponents 29-11 over the past five games.

“Just the positivity,” Pearson said of what’s stood out during the team’s win streak. “It’s interesting — we don’t talk about who we’re missing; we don’t talk about being in first place or the Big Ten championship. All we’re just really focused on is getting better and working hard. Practices have been really good.”

The Wolverines fell behind Friday for just the third time during its win streak, but they came storming back with three goals in the first seven minutes of the second period after allowing the icebreaker in the last 30 seconds of the first period.

Although OSU rallied to tie the game, Pearson and players said the team never wavered.

“Everyone’s just having fun,” said freshman forward Mark Estapa, who set up Blankenburg for the game-winning goal. “Everyone’s playing together. I think the chemistry in the room right now is awesome.”

Meanwhile, Hughes, the 2021 no. 4 overall pick, continued his torrid stretch with two more goals, giving him 15 this season. He passed Dean Turner on Friday for the most goals by a freshman defenseman in program history.

RELATED: First-round pick Luke Hughes dazzles in Michigan’s sweep vs. Michigan State

The 6-foot-2, 186-pounder has eight points in the past three games and leads all NCAA defenseman with 32 this season.

“He’s a special talent,” Pearson said. “He’s a gamer. From where he was at the start of the year to now, his growth has been incredible.”

Michigan and OSU conclude the two-game series at 8:30 pm Saturday at Yost.

MORE MICHIGAN HOCKEY: Nick Blankenburg’s rise from walk-on to Michigan hockey captain

See how the Michigan hockey sweater has evolved over 97 years

‘Rock star’ goalie Erik Portillo a difference-maker for Michigan hockey

New assistant’s analytical approach paying dividends for no. 3 Michigan hockey

Law firm investigates Michigan hockey over allegations of COVID deception, toxic environment

Comments are closed.