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Some of the names are different, but when Michigan and Michigan State tangle on the ice, there’s no love lost between the hockey rivals.
With new head coaches for both teams —Michigan’s Mel Pearson replaced legendary coach Red Berenson and former Spartan player Danton Cole now leads MSU — it was Pearson who got the upper hand in Thursday night’s game, leading the Wolverines to a 4-0 win at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor.
Senior Tony Calderone finished with a hat trick for the Wolverines, scoring a goal in the second period and adding two more in the third to put the game away.
Michigan (7-6-2, 3-4-2-1 Big Ten) and Michigan State (7-9-1, 1-7-1-1) finish the home-and-home series at 7:05 p.m. Friday in East Lansing.
Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s game:
Old (new) rivalry
Although it was their first meeting as head coaches for U-M and MSU, the rivalry is nothing new for Pearson, a longtime assistant under Berenson, and Cole, who returned to East Lansing and replaced former coach Tom Anastos.
“It’s Michigan State and Michigan. These are big games,” said Cole, who helped the Spartans win a national championship as a player in 1986. “The fans are into it, the players are into it. We want to win them all, but some have more meaning.”
With Berenson at Yost for Thursday’s game, Pearson didn’t feel extra pressure to win.
“It helps ease my nerves when he’s around,” Pearson said. “He’s been very supportive and encouraging, and I really appreciate that. I’m fortunate to have a guy like Red around.”
What about his emotions facing MSU?
“It’s not much different, really,” Pearson said. “You want to beat them, they want to beat us. It’s as simple as that.”
Three’s a charm
Calderone, who entered Thursday’s game with 15 points (10 goals, five assists), notched his first career hat trick at U-M. His final goal, with assists from Dexter Dancs and Cooper Marody, made it 4-0 with 3:28 left. Students at Yost tossed hats onto the ice, causing a brief delay.
“That makes it special,” Calderone said of doing it against MSU. “The color we love to hate. It feels really good.”
His first goal was Pearson’s favorite. Calderone was alone in front of Spartans goalie John Lethemon for what seemed like an eternity, finishing the play with a backhanded score.
“It was a broken play,” Calderone said. “Dexter was able to poke-check it, giving me more than enough time to sit there and dust the puck off. Honestly, I kind of blacked-out, didn’t really know what happened. I went to my backhand and it went in.”
Pearson added: “Anytime he gets a chance, he’s pretty good. He works hard on his craft. There’s a reason he has success.”
The Wolverines, led by goalie Hayden Lavigne’s 21 saves, recorded their first shutout this season, although Pearson said his defense was far from perfect.
“We gave up too many Grade-A opportunities,” he said. “As you watch the game back, I’m not going to like it, as far as some of the opportunities we’re giving up, especially at key times. Hayden bailed us out tonight. He did a phenomenal job.”
Lethemon had 25 saves for MSU.
After Friday’s game in East Lansing, both teams are off until the Great Lakes Invitational on Jan. 1 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. MSU faces Michigan Tech at 2:30 p.m., while the Wolverines play Bowling Green at 6 p.m.
Tough to watch
Michigan senior defenseman Cutler Martin, an East Lansing High School graduate, watched Thursday’s game from the press box with an upper body injury. He was injured against Penn State early in the season and has played only three games. He expects to be back for the GLI.
“It’s clear I had to wait,” Martin said of missing the Spartans game. “If I rushed back, I could end up missing the whole season.”
Martin, whose high school is minutes away from MSU’s campus, visited the Spartans during his recruiting process but always wanted to play at Michigan. He trains with a few MSU players during the off-season.
“We’re not friends on the ice,” said Martin, who has played 101 career games at Michigan.