When Quinn Hughes went left against St. Lawrence, he was more often than not right.
In the No.12 Michigan hockey team’s 3-1 win over the Saints, the sophomore defenseman quite literally found a zone — the left point. Whether it was his score or one of his two assists, the Wolverines relentlessly funneled their offense to the left point.
Michigan started the game with a lot of pressure on the Saints’ back line, dominating the puck for much of the first period. While St. Lawrence goaltender Austin Brey started the game strong, the Saints’ blue line didn’t do him any favors.
Although St. Lawrence crowded the center of the ice near the goal, that left the rest of the offensive zone free for Michigan. As a result, each of the Wolverines’ 13 shots in the first period went unblocked by St. Lawrence’s defense, with most of those coming from the top of the zone.
“[St. Lawrence] gets a stick on you or an arm on you, they really make it difficult for you to do anything down low and even on the rush they have people back,” said MIchigan coach Mel Pearson. “ … So what that does is open up the blue line. You have to go low to high and then just get to the next, and get in traffic and make things happen.”
Brey matched his Herculean effort from Friday night before with 37 saves, and started off by blocking a slapshot by sophomore forward Jack Becker from the top-middle of the zone, then doing the same minutes later on a shot from freshman forward Garrett Van Wyhe.
The Wolverines, though, dialed up the intensity, eventually finding twine 5:52 into the game when Norris deflected in a shot from Hughes with his left skate. In the third period, Michigan scored an almost-identical goal, as Olmstead notched his first career goal after getting behind Brey and taking in Hughes’ pass from the left point.
With the Wolverines bringing the heat at even strength, the offensive flow naturally transferred over to the power play as well. Seven minutes after the first goal, Hughes found himself in the same spot as before, corralled a cross-ice pass from senior defenseman Joseph Cecconi and knocked in another score to increase the Wolverines’ lead to 2-0.
“Their forwards were coming out really hard so we didn’t have a lot of time,” Hughes said. “Like I said before, we have to make a quick play and fortunately we had good screens.”
Even while Michigan couldn’t take advantage of its next three power-play opportunities, its blue line held strong, though, holding the Saints to 19 shots for the game — and only five shots in the second period. St. Lawrence’s lone goal came off a faceoff rebound that careened to the net — one of just two shots for the Saints in the period.
And after allowing 11 shot attempts on the left side of the ice in the first period, the Wolverines allowed just two in the second period. On a Saints breakaway, freshman goaltender Strauss Mann deflected a shot with the outstretched tip of his right mitt, just barely preventing a top shelf goal. For the game, Mann saved 18 shots.
While Michigan won’t always be able to pick and choose its spots on either side of the puck as much as it did Saturday, keeping that intensity and pressure both ways will serve them well as they move on to bigger and better opponents.