The Michigan hockey team’s 10 goals against Western Ontario on Saturday night was a spectacle of an offensive performance. What many overlooked, though, was how pivotal the defense was in securing those goals.
Senior defenseman Cutler Martin’s snipe past the opposing goaltender for the Wolverines’ eighth goal against the Mustangs was evidence of such.
“We have to understand and get in the habit of moving the puck up quick,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “We want to be a quick transition team and try to go from our defensive zone to the offensive zone as quick as we can.”
Pearson’s sentiment is consistent with the way the Wolverines’ blueliners performed in their first exhibition match.
“I think that coming back — this is going to be my fourth year — the defense has a good footing on what we need to do,” Martin said prior to the exhibition Saturday. “We need to play defense first, have that mindset, be aggressive, be mean on the ice.”
And mean they were.
Immediately at the onset of the matchup, sophomore defenseman Luke Martin fired off a shot from the blue line that found its way into the net off a deflection from senior forward Dexter Dancs.
Throughout the night, the defense simultaneously protected the Michigan net while forcing a plethora of scoring opportunities for the offense, giving the whole squad a weapon behind the blue line.
In the second period, Martin assisted fifth-year senior forward Alex Roos, and junior defenseman Joseph Cecconi assisted senior forward Tony Calderone.
Then, in the third period, Luke Martin assisted junior forward Cooper Marody, junior defenseman Nicholas Boka assisted Martin, Cecconi assisted sophomore forward Jake Slaker and Boka again assisted sophomore forward James Sanchez.
In total, the Wolverines’ defense racked up nine points, proving just how multi-faceted the team may be this year.
From the crisp passing to the multitude of scoring opportunities from every point around the ice, the Michigan offensive effort — which includes the defense in this scenario — seemed cool, composed and deadly.
“I think it’s guys just buying into the system,” Calderone said. “I think a lot of guys are starting to hold onto the puck more, getting more confident.”
In a game that most regard as an easy matchup, the Wolverines certainly showed that their aggressive mentality works.
And while some might argue Saturday’s outburst came in a meaningless exhibition game, one would only need to look back at last year’s exhibition for a sign of growth. Against Windsor, last season’s Michigan defense recorded zero points. This much of an improvement in a year’s time shows that Pearson’s master plan may result in a higher-powered attack from both ends of the ice.