» Adam Fantilli notched another four-point game (two goals, two assists) to reach 60 points on the season.
» Gavin Brindley and Rutger McGroarty each scored and added an assist.
» Defense partners Luke Hughes and Keaton Pehrson each recorded a pair of assists in the win.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Three first-period goals propelled the second-seeded University of Michigan ice hockey team past the third-seeded Ohio State University Buckeyes by a 7-3 score in the single-elimination Big Ten semifinal contest at Yost Ice Arena on Saturday evening (March 11).
With the win, Michigan advances to next week’s Big Ten Championship Game for the second-straight season and look to defends its title. The Wolverines will face top-seeded Minnesota at the Golden Gophers’ home ice in Minneapolis.
Michigan (23-11-3) opened the scoring just 23 seconds into play when Gavin Brindley collected a pass from Hobey Baker Award nominee Adam Fantilli and rocketed a shot to the top corner of the net to set Yost ablaze. Luke Hughes earned the secondary pass for helping to break out of the defensive zone and feed Fantilli for the rush. In collecting the assist, Fantilli extended his nationwide-scoring lead.
The Buckeyes (20-15-3) appeared to tie the game at 3:46 following a netfront scramble, but the Michigan coaching staff quickly challenged the play for being offside. After a brief review, the officials confirmed that the play was offside and Michigan retained its challenge and the 1-0 lead.
Just over a minute later, Ethan Edwards collected a loose puck in the defensive zone and zipped a breakout pass to the center of the ice for his defensive partner, Seamus Casey. The freshman defenseman took an extra stride after crossing the OSU blue line before ripping a low shot that squeezed through the OSU goaltender’s wickets to trickle across the goal line and double the Michigan lead at 4:48.
Following the halfway point of the first period, U-M continued to buzz up and down the ice. As the Wolverines were setting up for another offensive-zone possession at even-strength, senior blue liner Keaton Pehrson noticed Mackie Samoskevich breaking toward the net. From his spot at the right point, Pehrson unleashed a shot-pass to the left side of the crease where Samoskevich had his blade planted on the ice to redirect the puck past the netminder and give Michigan a three-goal lead at 10:27. Pehrson’s partner on defense, Hughes, earned the secondary helper for his second point of the period.
Eighteen seconds after Michigan was penalized for the first time, OSU jammed a backdoor pass through Portillo’s five-hole to make it a 3-1 game at 11:25 of the second.
Fantilli took the roof off of a sold-out Yost Ice Arena with a critical goal after skating across the blue line on the right wing all alone to make it 4-1 with 2:55 left in the second period. Rutger McGroarty and Brindley each picked up assists on Fantilli’s 26th goal of the season.
After two periods, Michigan’s lead stood at 4-1.
Thirty-five seconds into the third period, Michigan’s penalty killers were called into action when the Wolverines were assessed a minor penalty for tripping. Less than a minute later, Ohio State made it a 4-2 game with its second power-play goal of the evening.
Back at even-strength with a faceoff in the Ohio State zone, Frank Nazar III beat the opposing centerman to win possession of the puck. Winger Jackson Hallum dashed into the circle to collect Nazar’s win before sending a quick shot that found the top-right corner of the net to bump Michigan’s lead up to 5-2 at 6:20.
After pulling the Buckeye netminder for an extra skater, Ohio State trimmed the deficit by scoring its third goal of the night with 4:26 left in regulation and making it 5-3.
The Buckeyes emptied their net once again. This time, Pehrson dug a puck out of the U-M zone and chipped a pass off the boards in front of the Michigan bench to Fantilli in the neutral zone. With a quick touch, Fantilli sent the puck fluttering into the empty net for his second goal and third point of the night, making it 6-3 in Michigan’s favor with 2:50 left in the contest.
Facing a three-goal deficit, the Buckeyes continued to search for goals to narrow the gap and decided to pull their netminder once again. This time, it was Fantilli who won the race to a loose puck and flipped a pass into open ice for his linemate, McGroarty, to skate into and secure the empty-net goal and increase Michigan’s lead to 7-3,.
Fantilli’s four-point night raised his nation-leading season total to 60 points off of 27 goals and 33 assists. He also moved into sole possession of the third-best season for a Michigan freshman behind only Bruno Baseotto (76 in 1979-80) and Kyle Connor (71 in 2015-16).
Junior netminder Erik Portillo made 35 saves on the 38 shots that he faced from a potent Buckeye attack to earn his 57th career win between the pipes for the Wolverines.
Next week’s Big Ten Championship Game is set for Saturday (March 18) at 7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET and the contest will be broadcast live on Big Ten Network. As the highest-remaining seed, top-seeded Minnesota will host the game in Minneapolis.