On Friday and Saturday, No. 7 Michigan hockey (16-9-1, 8-8-0 Big Ten) welcomed the 6th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (18-9-1, 8-9-1 Big Ten) to Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, MI. After splitting the first season series in State College earlier this season, the Wolverines swept Penn State and took the season series 3-1.
Wolverines take game one, 7-3
On Friday night, Michigan hockey returned to Ann Arbor for the first time since splitting its road series with No. 2 Minnesota a week ago. The Wolverines needed to get the season back on track after seeing injuries, illness, the World Juniors, and more derail the season early on.
Despite its setbacks, Michigan hockey managed to stay in the top 10 and boast impressive wins to this point. Over the weekend, the Wolverines strengthened their resume with two more top-10 wins in a sweep of No. 6 Penn State.
In game one of the series, Michigan hockey put the pedal to the metal with a blowout victory. A garbage time goal made the score look closer than it was; Michigan still left game one with a 7-3 victory over the Nittany lions.
Michigan hockey takes game two, 5-4
In game two, Michigan hockey has seen one of its worst starts of the 2022-23 season. Within the first 44 seconds of the game (yes, less than a minute into the 1st period), Penn State buried quick shots to take a 2-0 lead.
It wasn’t until the following period that the Wolverines managed to get on the board themselves, though Michigan’s first goal was called back, and the Wolverines were assessed a 5-minute major and a game ejection. Soon after, the Nittany Lions made it a 3-0 hockey game.
Fast forward to the third period, Michigan hockey managed to cut Penn State’s lead to 1 goal behind a pair of goals by Luke Hughes. That changed when the Nittany Lions netted their fourth and final goal of the night. Somehow, the Wolverines battled back and scored two more — a 5-4 lead that lasted the remainder of the game.
Michigan’s night two performance was led by none other than Luke Hughes — he finished the game with four of Michigan’s five goals and made a huge play at the end of the game to prevent a tying goal for Penn State.
This weekend was the first time all season than No. 6 Penn State saw back-to-back losses, and established Michigan hockey as a bona fide top-5 squad.
What’s next for Michigan hockey?
Next weekend, the Wolverines will remain in Ann Arbor to host unranked Wisconsin (10-15-0, 3-12-0 Big Ten) in its second-to-last home series of the season. Following the Wisconsin series, Michigan hockey will face No. 15 Michigan State, No. 8 Ohio State, and finally, unranked Notre Dame to close out the regular season. Of its remaining eight games, only Notre Dame and Wisconsin (four games total) will be at Yost Ice Arena.
The Wolverines are likely out of the regular season Big Ten title picture; however, Michigan still has other major goals in front of it, such as a Big Ten tournament title and perhaps a Frozen Four berth. With a little luck, the Wolverines could make a run to the National Championship later this year.
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Michigan hockey is taking over Columbus with numerous NHL Draft picks
A pair of standout Wolverines are heading to Columbus via the NHL Draft.
For the seventh straight year, the Michigan hockey team has had one or more players selected in the first round of the NHL draft. Two players from last year’s freshman class were selected in the NHL draft… and they just happened to be chosen by the same team.
What was once enemy territory is now home for the Hobey Baker winner! With the third overall pick in the NHL draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets made a steal by selecting Adam Fantilli.
Before the draft, Fantilli was ranked No. 2 among the prospects, second only to the generational talent Connor Bedard. However, Anaheim chose Leo Carlsson with the second pick, leaving Fantilli available for Columbus. Nobody is happier than the Blue Jackets, as they have a strong affinity for their Wolverines, and Fantilli will fit in incredibly well with the team.
After an outstanding freshman year, the star forward signed his Entry Level Contract with the Blue Jackets and will be joining them in Columbus in just a few months.
Fantilli will be joining three former Michigan hockey players in Columbus: Zach Werenski, Kent Johnson, and Nick Blankenburg. Not only that, but the Blue Jackets also drafted Fantilli’s best friend and Michigan teammate just one round later.
Gavin Brindley will be playing alongside his Wolverine teammate in Columbus! The Blue Jackets selected him 34th overall in the second round.
The undersized forward from Fort Myers, Florida, totaled 38 points last season for the Wolverines. However, he is fast and a skilled playmaker, often creating opportunities with Fantilli by his side. Brindley, a fan favorite on the Wolverines hockey team, is sure to become a fan favorite in Columbus as well. The Blue Jackets’ development camp is taking place this week, and both Wolverines will be in attendance.
The success of former Wolverines with the Columbus Blue Jackets is evident, so it’s inevitable that Fantilli and Brindley will follow suit. They are going to be incredibly exciting to watch in the big leagues!
Michigan baseball: Reviewing the 2023 season
Michigan baseball recently wrapped up the 2023 season with a loss to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan baseball fell short but shows lots of promise for future years.
Earlier this week, Michigan baseball lost their second Big Ten tournament game, eliminating them from the tournament and ending their season. Despite falling short in the Big Ten tournament, Michigan baseball fans have a lot to be excited about.
In just his first year with the Wolverines, head coach Tracy Smith finished sixth in the Big Ten standings and made it to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. Here’s a year in review of Michigan baseball’s 2023 season.
Returning to the Michigan lineup were starters Tito Flores, Ted Burton, and Jimmy Obertop. After originally entering the transfer portal, Obertop ultimately decided to come back for one more year. Unfortunately, Obertop suffered a preseason injury which would force him to miss over 30 games to start the season.
With just Flores and Burton returning to the lineup, seven new starting spots were open for new talent to compete for. To begin the season, transfer targets Cody Jefferis and Gabe Sotres filled the gap at shortstop and catcher respectively. Freshman two-way player Mitch Voit also made the opening-day lineup starting at third base. Jack Van Remortel took over the everyday first base role, leaving two spots in the outfield for the rest of the team to compete for.
To start the season, senior Joey Velazquez and freshman Greg Pace Jr. filled the starting spots in the outfield.
Michigan retained great arm talent from 2022 with pitchers Connor O’Halloran, Noah Rennard, and Chase Allen all returning. The bullpen may have lacked depth but it was anchored by freshman closer and third baseman Mitch Voit.
With such high roster turnover and an all-new coaching regime, Michigan wasn’t expected to make a bang in the Big Ten this year. Still, the Wolverines were optimistic starting the season, with senior second baseman Ted Burton saying, “We have a lot of people to prove wrong…heading into the season, that’s our mindset.”
Midseason changes and conference play
Midway through the season, new talents started emerging for the Wolverines. With Greg Pace struggling to meet preseason expectations, freshman outfielder Jonathan Kim heated up. Kim raised his batting average above .400 and soon after took over as the starting center fielder. He continued to climb the order until he was eventually batting third.
Senior outfielder Jake Marti began heating up as well, and slowly moved into a platoon role in the outfield with Joey Velazquez and Tito Flores entering midseason slumps.
With conference play beginning, Coach Smith had an important decision regarding starting pitchers. The conference schedule would require three starting pitchers every weekend, and so far only two pitchers, Connor O’Halloran and Chase Allen, had emerged as dominant starters. Smith decided to move late reliever Noah Rennard into a starting role because of his consistency so far through the season.
The rotation was set, and O’Halloran, Allen, and Rennard typically started each conference weekend, though Smith made sure to note that he doesn’t like to assign “roles” and Rennard could still see late relief action if needed.
Michigan started conference play with a series sweep and started to find a rhythm with their young team.
Postseason and future for Michigan baseball
Michigan would finish conference play sixth out of thirteen in the Big Ten. This qualified them for the Big Ten tournament in Omaha Nebraska. As the sixth seed, Michigan baseball wasn’t expected to do a bunch of damage in Omaha. After losing their first game 13-3 against Iowa, Michigan was one loss away from elimination.
The Wolverines didn’t go down without a fight. Michigan eliminated both No. 7 seed Illinois and No. 2 seed Indiana. However, the Wolverines were pitted against Iowa again in the semifinals and couldn’t get the bats going, losing 0-5 to end their season.
While they ultimately fell short of winning another Big Ten championship, there is a lot of positive to take away from Coach Smith’s inaugural season. Several young players, such as Jonathan Kim, and Mitch Voit, have shown they can be everyday key contributors to the Michigan lineup.
In addition, Michigan baseball has more talent that has yet to reach its potential. Although he slumped heavily in his freshman year, Greg Pace Jr. could still be a breakout player for next year’s team. Freshman pitcher Kurt Barr also showed his potential by posting a 4.18 earned run average.
Coach Smith has also developed a deep recruiting class which will add more talent to the roster for next season. While Michigan may have fallen short this year, the team is in a great position for future seasons and will only get better with its young talent.
Michigan baseball takes rivalry series over Michigan State
Michigan baseball took two of three games against the in-state rival Michigan State Spartans, placing the Wolverines third in the Big Ten standings.
ANN ARBOR, MI – The Wolverines continue to climb the Big Ten standings. This weekend, Michigan baseball took two of three games against the in-state rival Michigan State Spartans.
The Wolverines faced Michigan State earlier in the season at the MLB Desert Invitational, falling to the Spartans 15-8. However, this weekend the Wolverines were boosted by two strong pitching performances and good hitting all around.
Michigan baseball now ranks third in the Big Ten standings. Here are some takeaways from the Wolverines’ weekend homestand.
Noah Rennard’s starting success continues
Entering the 2023 season, Michigan baseball did not have a solidified number three starter for their rotation. After being used primarily as a reliever in non-conference play, Noah Rennard filled the role as the third starter and has been delivering ever since.
Rennard got the start this Friday for the first of three games against the Spartans. Michigan baseball head Coach Tracy Smith explained that he wanted to give their starting ace Connor O’Halloran an extra day off.
Rennard took advantage of this opportunity, pitching 5.2 innings and only allowing three earned runs. After this weekend, Rennard holds a 4.89 earned run average with 46 innings pitched.
Coach Smith explained how the roster doesn’t follow a typical “one two three” rotation because they lack bullpen depth. Smith said, “We know who we’re starting on Friday, that’s all we know. If we have to use Noah [Rennard] to win the game on Friday, we’re going to.” He added, “We just don’t have the luxury this year of putting him in a role where every time he shows up to the yard, we know what he’s going to be”.
Rennard will continue to make starts this season and see time as a late reliever in close games. “The good part about that is these guys are great,” said Coach Smith, adding “They’re like ‘Hey man, just tell me what I need to do.’ … They’ve been awesome with that and that’s how we’re going to have to do it.”
Connor O’Halloran’s first complete game
Connor O’Halloran has been a dominant starting ace for Michigan baseball all season. All but one of his ten starts have been “Quality Starts” with more than six innings pitched and less than three runs allowed.
O’Halloran has been known to pitch deep into games, often throwing over 100 pitches per start. Despite all of his dominant performances, this Saturday marked the first time O’Halloran has recorded a complete game in his career.
O’Halloran limited the Spartans to only three earned runs and struck out five en route to his complete game. The Wolverines bats supported O’Halloran’s start, putting up eight runs in their victory.
Earlier this season, O’Halloran pitched nine full innings against Nebraska. However, the game went into extra innings and O’Halloran was pulled, disqualifying him from a “perfect game” despite his nine innings pitched. O’Halloran is slated to start again this Friday against Oklahoma State.
Michigan baseball enters midweek bye
With finals taking place this week at the University of Michigan, the Wolverines get a timely bye to study for their last exams. While a typical week has a non-conference opponent on Tuesday, Michigan baseball won’t play again until Friday when they begin their weekend series against Oklahoma State.
Coach Smith, who is in his first year as Michigan’s head coach, explained his mindset about this week’s bye. “It’s finals week, which I’m still learning here at the University of Michigan is quite an extensive thing… What I typically do is give them a couple of days off coming off the weekend, because we want to have our minds right… So we’ll take a couple of days off and get back to work on Wednesday as we prepare for Oklahoma State.”
The upcoming series against Oklahoma State will be held at home for the Wolverines. First pitch is scheduled for this Friday at 4 PM ET.
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