When Sebastien Bordeleau played in the NHL, teams knew he could deliver at the faceoff dot. Whether they needed a win in the defensive zone or on the attack, the centerman could deliver.
Now, 20 years later, his son Thomas Bordeleau has also earned that reputation on the No. 1 Michigan hockey team.
In the first four games this season, the sophomore forward has won 59% of his faceoffs — a drastic improvement from his 48% through the same period last season. Those numbers include going 14-of-21 against then-No. 1 Minnesota State on Saturday, a team full of experienced centers.
That kind of dominance translates well for the Wolverines. Their talent can’t shine unless the puck’s on their sticks, and Bordeleau delivers that more often than not. It’s something he takes pride in.
“It kind of came from my dad who was really good at it back in the day,” Bordeleau said. “He kind of taught me like early on that it’s kind of free ice time. If coach trusts you on the faceoff, you’re gonna get on more often.”
Getting on the ice has been no problem for Bordeleau. In tight contests like the Minnesota State game, he found his number called time after time as the clock ticked closer to zero. In that ice time, he tipped in the game-tying goal and made a slick cross-ice pass to sophomore forward Brendan Brisson to win the game. That kind of trust from his coaches has followed Bordeleau his whole career.
Finding success on faceoffs takes a mental battle every time Bordeleau lines up at the dot. It’s him versus his opponent, and a large swath of clock time depends on Bordeleau’s ability to beat him to the puck. To do that, Bordeleau needs to spot every little thing that could tip the scales in his favor.
“A lot of guys are like ‘set up first, make sure you get your space first on the dot, make sure you kind of win the dot,’” Bordeleau said. “But a lot of times I kind of like seeing how the guy sets up, just kind of taking a step back and just seeing where his hands are at, how wide he is with his feet, where he puts his blade on the dot.”
But it’s not all about playing bullet chess at the dot. Bordeleau learned a few tricks to make sure he comes out on top.
One of those lessons came from his dad, who taught him to flip his hands on the stick when he takes certain draws. It’s the kind of tool that most pros don’t even use, but to Bordeleau it’s second-nature.
“It takes a lot of skill to be able to do that,” senior forward Jimmy Lambert said. “Not many people can just flip their hands around and be as successful both ways as he is.”
That’s not even the extent of Bordeleau’s faceoff repertoire. In practice and in games, he has tried batting the puck out of the air and pushing the puck forward. Those tricks only come into play once in a while, but Bordeleau’s success on normal draws gives him a chance to experiment and build on his abilities.
That importance permeates into all aspects of Bordeleau’s game — including how he treats his stick. With a flatter curve than most hockey players, he gains extra control of the puck when he flips his hands on the stick. He also coats the bottom of his stick with white spray paint and uses white tape. Try watching that stick on a high-speed faceoff.
Those tiny details matter for a team like Michigan, with every team it faces gunning to steal a victory. The Wolverines’ stars can’t score unless they have the puck, and Bordeleau gives everyone on his line a better chance at getting it.
With tough games coming throughout the season, Michigan can benefit from an advantage at the dot. Just like his dad, Bordeleau gives his team that edge.