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Michigan hockey searching for goals after ‘tough’ weekend vs MSU

ANN ARBOR — Michigan’s hockey team tied Michigan State 1-1 Saturday, but for the Wolverines, it felt a loss.

Michigan (6-6-3, 2-3-3-1) outshot the Spartans 36-18, but MSU (6-7-1, 2-3-1-1) earned the extra Big Ten point on a shootout goal from Brennan Sanford, taking five of a possible six points during the two-game weekend series.

Sophomore forward Mitch Lewandowski scored midway through the third period Friday in East Lansing to give the Spartans a 4-3 victory, despite the team being outshot 46-29.

The two teams will meet two more times during the regular season.

“It is brutal,” Pearson said after Saturday’s game. “If you walked into that locker room now, you would think something drastic had happened. It’s tough. It is a big rival. They take it serious. They take it to heart, and we felt like we deserved better.

“That is the frustrating thing. I think we had two pretty good games and got one point out of it, but that is sports. It is a tough night for all of us.”

The Spartans had a much different outlook after Saturday’s game.

“It’s a win for our team,” Sanford said. “We consider it a sweep. It doesn’t really matter going into the series whether one team is supposed to win or not. It’s just a battle. As a senior, to be able to say we swept Michigan and I was able to get the game-winner, it’s special.”

The 14th-ranked Wolverines are now winless in their past five games and they have scored just seven goals in their past four.

“We are in a situation now where we are not scoring goals,” Pearson said. “And we can’t get any separation from the teams we are playing. I thought we had opportunities tonight to get up on them or create a couple goal spread, but we couldn’t.

“They played a perfect road game, got great goaltending, scored on their chance and had guys back. That is the way they play. You have to grind it out against them.”

Last year, Michigan finished 3-1-1 against MSU and was ranked in the top five to begin 2018-19. The Wolverines have struggled with consistency early on, similar to last season when they were 7-7-2 on Dec. 8.

They hit their stride in the second half of the year, rallying to finish third in the Big Ten and making a run to the Frozen Four.

Senior defenseman Joseph Cecconi said there still is a lot to like about this Wolverines team, despite recent results.

“It is unacceptable,” Cecconi said. “A big rivalry against Michigan State and you want those six points, and to come out with one is just not where we want to go with that.

“With that being said, there were a lot of positive things in the game and the weekend, so we are just going to build off of that.”

MSU is 2-0-1 in its past three games, led by junior forward Taro Hirose and freshman goalie Drew DeRidder, who has stopped 106 of 112 shots during that span.

Hirose scored his seventh goal of the season Saturday and is tied for the NCAA lead with 23 points.

The Spartans will look continue to climb in the crowded Big Ten standings at Wisconsin (6-7-3, 2-3-3) on Friday and Saturday.

“As long as we take the same approach when we come out Monday, working and getting better and keep moving things forward, I think that’s what momentum is,” MSU second-year head coach Danton Cole said.

“There’s things we’ve got to work on and continue to get better. We’ve got a tough series in Wisconsin, so if it gives us extra energy, gives us a little more interest in what we’re doing, it’s a good thing for us.”

Meanwhile, Michigan looks to get back on track in a two-game home series against Minnesota (4-6-3, 2-2-2 Big Ten).

“We are in a very similar situation to last year,” Pearson said. “Now can we come out of that funk? This weekend coming up will be a good opportunity for us to right the ship.”

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