With the puck on his stick at the top of the right circle, sophomore forward Kent Johnson hesitated for a second as Niagara goaltender Chad Veltri shifted across the crease. Winding up his stick for a snap shot, Johnson sent the puck to the top right corner. A lead two minutes into the game seemed all but guaranteed.
But the official’s waving arms accompanied a hollow ping. No goal.
Three minutes later, sophomore forward Brendan Brisson found himself in the same situation, wiring his trademarked one-timer from the top of the circle. Again, the clang of the post filled Yost Ice Arena. The anthem of a goal scorer’s agony.
“Brisson probably should’ve had two or three (goals) in the first period alone,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “From our angle it looked like he had a lot of net to shoot at, and it just wouldn’t get in.”
Brisson’s struggles to bury the puck marked a larger trend in No. 4 Michigan’s offense. The Wolverines earned several grade-A scoring threats but few reached the back of the net. In the end, they doubled down on their aggressive offense to earn a win.
Michigan’s been plagued by a lack of puck luck for several weeks. After an offensive onslaught on the road against Penn State, the Wolverines struggled to finish their shots against Notre Dame. From wraparounds to one-timers, nearly guaranteed goals left them shaking their heads.
Facing Niagara didn’t change anything. Michigan got bodies in front of the net, passed the puck around for the best available shot and didn’t hesitate to put a shot on goal. Through two periods, the Wolverines were outshot 21-17 but had racked up multiple high-danger scoring opportunities.
Michigan’s struggles to finish came from its rotten luck. About seven minutes into the third period, freshman Luke Hughes tried to rip a one-timer on net but his stick snapped as he dug deep into his shot. As Bordeleau tried his own one-timer not three seconds later, his stick also broke and he tossed it across the ice in frustration.
But those goals eventually came in the third period, as the Wolverines focused on generating shots. With an offense that has flooded scoreboards with goals this season, Michigan eventually overcame Niagara by falling back on its skill and strategy.
“You have to have a short memory,” Pearson said. “… You’re going to go through some struggles. It’s not gonna go your way every shift or every game or every period, but you have to stay with it.”
Michigan stuck with its offensive game plan, and eventually marched to a comfortable win. The Wolverines doubled down on their possession-having offense by moving the puck and chasing rebounds, and eventually their bad luck faded.
If Michigan wants to eye a Big Ten title or a postseason run, it has to figure out how to score when the puck doesn’t bounce its way. The Wolverines found a way to do that against Niagara.
“You never really know what’s going to happen in a game, if the puck’s gonna go your way or not,” sophomore forward Kent Johnson said. “So (we have to) just continue to play the right way and trust the way that we play.”