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5 Things We Learned: Niagara

James Coller/Daily
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By Erin Lennon, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 24, 2013

1. The freshmen are ready for the Big Ten.

The Michigan hockey team’s freshmen combined for seven points in the Wolverines’ 6-0 win over Niagara on Friday and have recorded points in each contest this season.

It took freshman forward Tyler Motte just 34 seconds to score the first of No. 5 Michigan’s six goals on the night.

Motte’s goal was his fifth of the season, and his first in six games. He finished with a team-leading three points after tallying two assists.

Motte was one of four freshmen, and seven Wolverines in all, to contribute to the six-goal scoring effort.

“It was good to see him on the scoring sheet again,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.

Midway through the second period, forward Alex Kile sent a rebound from senior forward Luke Moffatt into the back of the net for his first career goal. Kile was the final freshman forward to register a goal this season, with the exception of Max Shuart, whose first career start came Friday.

JT Compher, whose first two career goals came last weekend against Nebraska-Omaha, added two assists while defenseman Michael Downing had one.

Goaltender Zach Nagelvoort has already shown he is ready for big-time, Big Ten hockey, but after a strong showing Friday, it seems the rest of Michigan’s freshmen are ready as well.

2. Michigan can do it five-on-five.

In fact, five of the Wolverines’ season-high six goals against Niagara came on even-man opportunities.

Prior to Friday, Michigan’s offense was ranked 31st in the country — significantly lower than its top-10 ranking would suggest. The offense relied heavily on one of the nation’s strongest power plays. And though Michigan is 7-1-1 when recording power-play tallies, even-strength goals will be the difference in close, one-goal games.

“We’ve had some success as a team, but a lot of it has been our special teams,” Berenson said. “We’ve had some guys who haven’t scored at all.”

The Wolverines were also aided by a rule implemented after last season. After Motte tripped and fell, dislodging the Niagara net from its moorings, sophomore forward Andrew Copp netted his first of two goals on the night. The subsequent review reversed the initial no-goal call. Last year, the score would have been automatically waved off with the net off its posts.

“Five even-strength goals is really important for our team going forward, and I think it gives us a lot of confidence going into Big Ten play next week,” Copp said.

3. Nagelvoort gets the nod.

Both goaltenders, Nagelvoort and sophomore Steve Racine, made a start on the road last weekend against Nebraska-Omaha. Each gave up three goals, but it was Nagelvoort who was charged with the loss when the offense couldn’t bail him out.

So heading into a one-game weekend against Niagara — the first of the season — only one of Michigan’s two starting goalies would get the nod.

Nagelvoort made the most of his opportunity, securing 36 saves en route to his first career shutout.

“We’ve had really high-intensity practices and having the competition with a guy like myself and Racine, two really good goalies who are always battling and constantly playing against each other,” Nagelvoort said. “Just having two guys like that is better.”

It was the first shutout at Yost Ice Arena since December of last season.

Still, Berenson won’t admit to picking a favorite quite yet.

“(Nagelvoort) got the benefit of this game, and he took advantage of it,” Berenson said. “But I’m not calling anyone No. 1 at this point.”

4. Home-ice advantage exists.

Having scored four goals in a pair of weekend games against Boston University and UMass-Lowell, and five goals in two contests against Michigan Tech, Berenson spoke about taking advantage of Yost Ice Arena.

On Friday, Michigan snapped its streak of seven straight one-goal contests — the longest streak in the nation — and scored more goals in one night than it had in any given weekend at home this season.

The Wolverines also scored twice in the first period, another first for an offense that has struggled at home. Michigan has outscored opponents 11-2 this season in the first period.

5. Defense could be Michigan’s weakness.

Despite the shutout, the defense allowed 36 shots, several of which forced Nagelvoort to defend the Wolverines’ lead by himself.