The minute-long review of Johnny Beecher’s power-play goal was the only thing that caused doubt at Yost Ice Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The freshman forward appeared to have kicked the puck into the net, but upon review, the referees determined that the contact with his foot was unintentional and Michigan was awarded the goal.
The tally gave the Wolverines a 2-0 lead over Windsor heading into the first intermission, and the game didn’t get much closer from there. Michigan poured in six more scores to win, 8-2, in its season-opening exhibition.
All the usual caveats about this being an exhibition game against a team in a lower division apply, but the Wolverines showed flashes of the team they could be this year.
From the opening moments of the game, it was clear that one team had an advantage. Michigan didn’t allow the Lancers into the offensive zone for the first three minutes, and Windsor finished the first period with just three shots, all of which sophomore goaltender Strauss Mann stopped.
“I thought there was a lot of good things that came out of that game, and that’s what we look for out of one of those games,” said senior forward Will Lockwood. “We kind of looked at it like it was a regular season game, so we came out hot. We didn’t score right off the bat, but pucks started to go in. I think we let off the gas a little bit which is what we want to focus on not doing, but overall, I thought it was good.”
Sophomore forward Garrett Van Wyhe opened the scoring on a tipped pass from senior defenseman Luke Martin, and Michigan didn’t look back from then on out. Beecher’s power-play score left the Lancers in a 2-0 hole to close the opening stanza, and the Wolverines picked up where they left off in the second.
Freshman defenseman Cam York lit the lamp for his first of two times on the afternoon when sophomore defenseman Nick Blankenburg fired a shot from the top of the right circle that caught York’s stick and snuck behind goaltender Jonathan Reinhart. Minutes later, freshman defenseman Keaton Pehrson unleashed a slapshot from the left circle that Reinhart didn’t have a chance of stopping.
“I liked our freshmen, especially our two defensemen,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “You can see that they’re both good defensemen. We’ve really got some potential on offense with them.”
By the time Windsor got on the scoreboard, the hole had already been dug. After York went down behind the net, forward Mel Melconian picked up the puck and passed it to teammate Ryan Shaw. Shaw’s shot went over senior goaltender Hayden Lavigne’s right shoulder for the Lancers’ first tally of the night, but Michigan still led by three.
Michigan quickly extended the lead once again in the closing minutes of the second period on a highlight-reel backhander from York and another power-play tally, this time from sophomore forward Jimmy Lambert.
Lambert’s power-play goal was the second of three for the Wolverines — out of six opportunities. Pearson made some changes to the power play this offseason, giving associate head coach Bill Muckalt the reins of the unit.
“You have systems but then you have to have players that can just read off of that,” Pearson said. “Not everything’s going to go tic tac toe, so you have to take what they give you and then create some things offensively. And I thought we didn’t score on some of our best chances on the power play, but it looked good.”
The biggest question mark of the night was Lavigne, who allowed two goals on 14 shots for a save percentage of .857. Lavigne entered last season with the starting job, but he quickly started splitting time with Mann, as was the case Sunday. Mann faced fewer shots than Lavigne, but the second goal Lavigne allowed came on a play where he didn’t get his pad across in time to make what could’ve been a straightforward save.
“(Lavigne) was good,” Pearson said. “He made some tough saves. You know, I’m sure he’d like the second one back but when you haven’t played for a long time, it’s just a fluky thing. He made some real hard saves. I liked his alertness. I liked the way he moved the puck. I thought he was good, too.”
Coming into Sunday’s exhibition, Michigan wasn’t worried about getting the win. It was almost expected, and the biggest things Pearson hoped to learn were about this team’s potential.
After putting up eight goals on a goaltender with a career save percentage above .900 and allowing just two, the Wolverines look poised for a better year than last year. It was only an exhibition, but the pieces seem to be there for a strong season.