A lack of experience is something that rarely bodes well, especially when it comes to the sport of hockey.
And entering the season, a lack of experience was a major concern plaguing the sixth-ranked Wolverines. With 14 offseason departures, including a majority of last season’s core group — like defenseman Owen Power and forwards Matty Beniers, Kent Johnson, Brendan Brisson and Thomas Bordeleau — there was a gaping hole in Michigan’s lineup that left it vulnerable. And while there was tremendous excitement about the talent of the incoming freshman class, it remained unclear whether such a green group could make an immediate impact.
But in the Wolverines’ 9-2 clobbering of No. 9 Boston University on Friday night, the freshman class didn’t just look talented, they won the hockey game for Michigan.
“It’s awesome, these guys all have an opportunity to get out there and fight for the opportunity to get ice time,” Naurato said. “And they’re fighting to prove that they can stay in these spots on special teams and five-on-five.”
In a night characterized by offensive dominance and excessive power play opportunities, the freshman class didn’t skip a beat. The seven starters hammered BU on offense over and over again, putting up a combined 12 points, with five goals and seven assists.
Numbers rarely lie, and tonight, they certainly didn’t. The freshman didn’t put up a ridiculous stat line because they were cherry picking or hunting for points, but rather because they were everywhere on the ice. They used their speed to their advantage, fought for positioning in the slot and executed on power play advantages perfectly. And because of it, only one of Michigan’s nine total goals was scored without a freshman registering a point.
“I think a lot of that goes into the older guys really bringing us in,” freshman defenseman Seamus Casey said postgame. “I mean, we know we’ve got a lot of talented freshmen and a lot of talented guys on this team. Anyone can score any given night, but they played great.”
Casey led the charge for the freshmen, notching two goals and an assist. And his first goal was an all-freshmen affair, he and freshman forwards Gavin Brindley and Rutger McGroarty played tic-tac-toe on a five-on-three before Casey fired a one timer into an open net.
“He’s driving the offense,” Naurato said. “He and (Hughes) back there, they’re moving pucks north quick and they’re able to jump up in the play.”
Casey wasn’t done, and neither was Brindley or McGroarty, as all three found the back of the net again later in the game.
They moved the puck smoothly in and wired sharp passes that set up plays. And it wasn’t just the scorers, who drove the offense, it was the entire group. Freshman forward Adam Fantilli didn’t score a goal, but he had three assists because he played with energy. He drove pucks to the net, played set up man when he needed to, and it led to three goals.
One game is not nearly an adequate sample size for judging whether or not a young core can take a team far. But following their five-goal, 12-point outburst against a top ten opponent, it’s clear that all the talent that was advertised is there. But how much that talent can do for a team remains up in the air.
In the past, Naurato has been skeptical.
“Talent doesn’t win in college hockey,” Naurato said last Tuesday. “Older players win, because older players are disciplined.”
But on Friday night, it was the freshmen who powered Michigan to victory. And now the question becomes whether that will be an anomaly, or a recurrence.