On his birthday weekend, sophomore forward Matty Beniers put on a show. Beniers dominated in Friday’s matchup against Michigan State, scoring two goals. He looked to create a similar performance in the second game.
He started his work early. Off a pass from sophomore defenseman Owen Power, Beniers found space at the point and shot through senior forward Michael Pastujov’s screen. Silencing the Spartan whiteout, Beniers scored the goal and the game was in Michigan’s hands as it went on to win, 3-2.
But it wasn’t his last.
After sophomore forward Kent Johnson dealt with the puck behind the net, Beniers shoveled it close range for the Wolverine’s third goal. Although the goals and offensive work will show in the boxscore, what set Beniers apart was his play off the puck.
When sophomore goaltender Erik Portillo left his right post open, Beniers put his body in front of goal and to block a clear goal-scoring opportunity. In what could’ve been a momentum shift in the game, Beniers wouldn’t have it, showing his work off the puck transfers into success on the ice.
“Things are going in for him,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “He’s getting to the net and finding areas to be at. He’s got a really good shot so I’m not surprised.”
As the game progressed, the Spartans played choppy and aggressive. Hitting from behind, tripping with their skates and chirping after the whistle blew, Beniers saw what was to come and put it to a stop.
As all the players piled into the locker room, Beniers stayed on the ice to discuss with the referees. In a rivalry game, he proved his leadership and awareness for his teammates. At just 19 years old, Beniers is one of the younger players on the roster. Yet, his composure on the ice resembles that of a team veteran.
“He’s mature beyond his years,” Pearson said. “He’s a calm influence on our team. Obviously that’s why he wears the ‘A.’ ”
Beniers is a facilitator and showed that on the night. When Michigan earned a power play in the third period, Beniers controlled the tempo and found players from behind Michigan State’s goal. Although they didn’t score, his efforts pushed the team and tired out the Spartans in the third period.
In the final moments of the game, when the puck trickled down to Michigan State’s defensive zone for a clear icing call, Beniers chased a Spartan defenseman until the play was whistled dead. His tenacity and work ethic at the end was contagious and ultimately gave the Wolverines an edge.
“He’s always bringing it,” junior forward Nick Granowicz said. “That’s how he gets those goals. He’s a skilled player too. But his work is what creates a lot for him.”
Until this weekend, Beniers hadn’t scored since the third game of the season. Now with six goals to his name, he only sits one goal behind sophomore forward Brendan Brisson. The Seattle Kraken draft pick is one of the all-stars of the squad and continues to show why.
One thing’s for certain. When the games get chippy and the calls aren’t going Michigan’s way, it can rely on a player like Beniers to bring it back down and focus on the task at hand. Whether he’s scoring goals or sticking up for teammates, Beniers is the core of the Michigan hockey team.