By @MichaelCaples –
DETROIT – On Friday, the Wolverines and Spartans needed a shootout to decide a winner.
That wasn’t the case tonight at Little Caesars Arena.
It was the Wolverines prevailing in the annual ‘Duel in the D’ rivalry game in Detroit between the two storied hockey programs – the first of its kind at the new home of the Red Wings.
Cooper Marody, Jack Becker and Quinn Hughes scored for the Wolverines to lead Michigan to a 3-2 ‘Iron D Trophy’ win, while Hayden Lavigne recorded a 32-save win between the pipes.
“I think both teams really wanted to win, the crowd was really into tonight,” Hughes said after the game. “Obviously Michigan, Michigan State, we don’t really like each other too much, so as the game was going on, it was getting heavier and faster. It was a good win for us, we’re lucky we came out of it and we’re really happy.”
The biggest save of the game, however, came from Joe Cecconi with 2:21 remaining in the third period. The Wolverines defenseman stopped a shot from MSU’s Cody Milan that had gotten past Lavigne; video review confirmed that Cecconi kept the puck from crossing the goal line.
“It might be, yeah,” Cecconi said when asked if it was the best save of his career. “I’ve had maybe one or two of those but that was probably the best one.”
Taro Hirose and David Keefer scored for the Spartans, while Johnny Lethemon made 30 saves in the loss.
With the win, the Wolverines finish 3-1-1 against their in-state rivals from Michigan State.
Hughes’ goal at the 14:06 mark of the third period turned out to be the game-winner after initially giving the Wolverines a 3-1 lead. It was his second highlight-reel goal in as many nights, after his Friday night strike made the SportsCenter Top 10 plays list.
For his Saturday goal, he collected a pass from Cecconi and put a toe-drag fake on Lethemon before sliding the puck through his pads. It was his third goal of the season.
“Sometimes it just goes in bunches for me,” said Hughes, a USA Hockey’s NTDP alum projected to be a top pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. “Obviously I was frustrated with not having scored in a while, but, things happen, and I was lucky I got a couple of goals this weekend.”
— MiHockey (@MiHockeyNow) February 11, 2018
The win over the Spartans wasn’t good just for state bragging rights; it was also crucial for the Big Ten standings. The Wolverines are battling for home ice in the first round of the conference tournament, and they’re now four points ahead of fourth-place Wisconsin, and five behind second-place Ohio State with two conference games (against No. 1 Notre Dame) left on the schedule. The Fighting Irish have secured a Big Ten regular-season title already.
“Huge,” coach Mel Pearson said of the points earned on the weekend – five out of a possible six. “You can’t say it enough. We want home ice in the playoffs. We were picked to finish 6th in the conference, and we have something to prove. We have two games left to prove it, and we will be ready. I know Notre Dame will be ready. We had two good games with them and we will look forward to it. We will get to work starting tomorrow.”