A couple of orange traffic cones. A cowboy hat with the block M logo. Some baseball hats.
All these items and more rained over the glass in front of the Children of Yost. And standing there, watching it all unfold before him, was Nick Granowicz.
The freshman forward had just netted his third goal of the game, enough for his first career hat trick.
The play started back in his team’s defensive zone. Granowicz carried the puck along the boards, pushing towards Wisconsin’s blueline. Linemate Jake Slaker followed closely behind over his left shoulder. Only one defender stood between them and Badger goaltender Johan Blomquist.
Reading the play, Granowicz dropped a pass back to Slaker. Almost as soon as the puck touched his stick, he sent it back in the direction of his teammate.
Granowicz dragged it across the crease, switched from his forehand to backhand and elevated the puck past the arm of Blomquist.
“I was kinda shaking,” Granowicz said. “I got the chills for a minute there. It was really cool. Something special.”
Friday night, as Michigan dispatched Wisconsin, 8-4, he oozed confidence. He was poised. Alert. Battling hard towards the net. Whether the puck was in a stick’s reach or across the ice, Granowicz worked.
The performance surprised Michigan coach Mel Pearson. After Tuesday’s practice, he was concerned about Granowicz’s hands. During a drill, he received a pass right in front of the goal. But the confidence written all over his face Friday night wasn’t anywhere to be found.
Instead, it looked as if he’d never handled a puck before.
Following the play, Pearson walked towards him on the bench with something in his hands — gloves. He jokingly offered them to Granowicz.
“I went over and sort of offered my gloves,” Pearson said. “Meaning, ‘Maybe these will be better for your hands, or where are your hands?’ We have some fun (in practice), but good for him.”
But when Granowicz’s skates grazed the ice Friday night, his trouble finishing in practice was a distant memory. Before his moment of glory, he netted a go-ahead goal for Michigan early in the second period.
He collected a rebound off Slaker’s shot from the side of Wisconsin’s net. Based on the positioning of Badger goaltender Daniel Lebedeff — who was replaced by Blomquist to start the third period — Granowicz decided to wrap around the goal. He’d caught Lebedeff off guard. There was a window of space between his pads and the post.
Granowicz tucked the puck in the opening with ease.
Then, he skated along the boards with one leg in the air and emphatically pumped his fist.
“’He works so hard,” Slaker said. “He goes to the net well. He can bury, once the puck is around the net. I think our game plan was him go to the net and grind it out. We’re just trying to throw pucks there, and then we know he can bury them. And you know, it showed tonight.”
Granowicz’s second goal was a direct result of his grinding and gritty mentality.
He’d battled his way to the edge of the crease, a Badger defender was tight on his left side. Slaker threw from the post to Granowicz. With a quick shot, he buried the puck behind Lebedeff.
Again, he debuted a new celebration too. Skating on one knee, Granowicz pulled his fist back then punched it forward. A group of Michigan sweaters embraced him, he was two-thirds of the way to a hat trick.
But tonight’s showing wasn’t anything new for Granowicz.
In the second half of the season, he’s shown time and time again he’s capable of scoring in big moments for the Wolverines. His six goals — all within the last seven games — have been the result of his efforts to go hard toward the net. It showed when he netted two goals against then-No. 6 Penn State to carry his team to victory, and it showed Friday night, too.
It’s what he adds to every line he plays on. Granowicz has worked hard to become a consistent face in Michigan’s lineup, and that hard work was evident in every part of his game to night.
By the time Granowicz had scored his third goal, the worry Pearson felt earlier in the week had long since disappeared. In its place was a new emotion, one that was echoed on the bench and throughout the entirety of Yost, especially the student section — pride.