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Larkin shines in debut at Joe Louis Arena

by Craig Peterson / Detroit Red Wings

Michigan freshman and Red Wings prospect Dylan Larkin made his debut at Joe Louis Arena in front of a sold out crowd, scoring a goal in the first period extending his point streak to eight games. (Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)
DETROIT — Freshman sensation and Red Wings prospect Dylan Larkin did not disappoint in his college hockey debut at Joe Louis Arena on Friday night. Despite losing 2-1 to rival Michigan State, Larkin scored the lone goal for Michigan making a great first impression in front of a sold out crowd.

“It was pretty cool,” Larkin said. “It was a great atmosphere and it was a tough loss but it was a lot of fun.”

Larkin, the B1G’s leader in freshman scoring with 30 points, appeared in front of fans eager to get their first look at the Waterford, Mich., native seven months after the Wings selected him 15th overall in the 2014 NHL draft.

He didn’t keep them waiting long as he scored just 16 minutes into the first period to tie the game at 1-1.

With his team trailing and on the man advantage, Larkin commanded a beautiful power play working the puck around the perimeter. Cycling the puck low in the zone, his line mate and B1G’s leading scorer, Zach Hyman possessed the puck below the goal line near the net over Michigan State goalie Jake Hildebrand’s right shoulder. Hyman forced a pass across the front of the Spartans net and was deflected by a defender’s stick. The puck went end over end towards Larkin who was near the far faceoff dot. Larkin caught the pass out of mid air with his left hand, dropped the puck to the ice and fired a quick shot back over Hildebrand’s right shoulder before the goalie could make the save. The goal was Larkin’s 10th of the season and eighth in as many games, tying the score at 1-1 with 3:09 left in the first period.

“I didn’t really think about the whole thing until I was on the bench and I heard my name announced,” Larkin said. “I thought that was pretty cool, it was a big goal for our team.”

Hyman and Larkin are first and second in the conference in scoring as they both extended their point streaks to eight games.

“They’ve been really good all year, “ coach Red Berenson said. “Hyman and Dylan, you could see Hyman might’ve been one of the best players in the game and he has been every night. So they’ve connected really well.”

In addition to his offensive production on one end of the rink, Larkin provided puck support to his teammates in the defensive zone, making his presence felt on both ends of the ice. Playing a full 200-foot game while spending time on the power play and penalty kill, Larkin showcased his ability to play in all facets of the game.

“You can’t ever take anything away from Dylan’s game,” Michigan forward J.T. Compher said. “He was great tonight, he’s been great all season. He competes his butt of every minute of every game and I think he was excited to play in this building. I think he was excited to play in the rivalry game — this was his first chance playing Michigan State — and he gave it his all tonight.”

As the home team, Michigan State had the last change allowing coach Tom Anastos to line match against the B1G’s top offensive line in Larkin, Hyman and Justin Selman. The trio combined for 75 points heading into Friday night’s contest and Anastos decided to counter the Wolverines’ scoring line with his top line. Spartans forwards Ryan Keller, Thomas Ebbing and Brent Darnell slowed down the offensive threat with a physical effort and strong defensive play through the first 40 minutes holding Larkin and company to just five shots combined.

“It’s pretty obvious what happened,” Berenson said. “Everyone builds this game up as an offense against defense and you know what happens…defense wins. So it’s pretty clear to us that the puck’s not gonna go in easy every night and we’ve gotta play better than we played if we’re gonna win close games.”

Michigan was not able to overcome an early third period goal that gave the Spartans a 2-1 lead and the win. Leading the nation with an average of 4.36 goals per game, the Wolverines were held to just one goal for the first time since Dec. 13, snapping the team’s seven-game win streak. Larkin will get another taste of the rivalry next week when the two teams meet at Soldier Field in Chicago for the Hockey City Classic next Saturday.

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