It’s rare to describe an exhibition game as a chippy matchup.

But after 39 combined penalty minutes in just one contest, the Michigan hockey team looked like it had just stepped out of a bitter rivalry game.

From the get go during the opening exhibition matchup of the Wolverines’ 100th season, Michigan (0-0-0) overcame the physical Windsor Lancers (4-1-0),8-2, in an exhibition matchup that had moments of promise, yet a substantial amount of grit and grime.

“I thought the flow of the game was kind of goofy with all the special teams,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said. “But it was good. You want to see a lot of power plays, (and) a lot of PKs just to see who can do what.”

“Goofy” or not, the contest was an aggressive punching match for a game that many expected to go off without a hitch. Together, the two teams committed a disruptive 13 penalties.

In the first period alone, the Lancers’ aggression put them in the doghouse early. They logged five penalties for a combined 21 minutes. Bolstered by a 10 minute game misconduct penalty to Windsor forward Keegan McMullen, the Wolverines spent a majority of the period on the powerplay, an opportunity they chomped at the bit for.

After a tripping penalty by Lancer forward Grant Spence, Michigan sophomore forward Mackie Samoskevich stepped into a shot from the point and netted the opening goal of the Brandon Naurato’s era.

After the departure of high-level talent from the Michigan roster just a season ago, the Wolverines will rely on holdover staples such as Samoskevich going forward. Despite the overwhelming animosity on the ice, Michigan’s immense talent shined on offense. The Wolverines finished the game with an astonishing 49 shots on net. 

“I think the players did a good job,” Naurato said. “We’re always gonna let them play. Whether they lose 82, or win 82, we’re gonna show them they’re good and we’re gonna keep it going. And if it doesn’t work out, we’re just gonna get better.”

And while the Wolverines won’t see 82 games this season, they were evidently prepared for their first exhibition of the season. Michigan dominated the opening period on offense, scoring another three goals in the six minutes after Samoskevich’s opener and ending the frame on a 4-0 high.

Windsor initially had little answer for the Wolverines’ onslaught. The Lancers’ physical play is the exact style that has given Michigan fits in the past, yet the Wolverines’ skilful cohesion was continually too much to surmount.

Nevertheless, during the second period, the Wolverines got their fair share of extracurricular activity too, logging four penalties. One of which, a boarding penalty committed by freshman defenseman Johnny Druskinis, could’ve been a game misconduct of its own. The penalty was reviewed at length and eventually called a two minute minor.

“Our discipline can be way better on both ends,” graduate forward Nolan Moyle said. “But, just playing smarter and as the year goes on, hopefully, just buckling down and taking more pride in that.”

To its credit, Windsor eventually capitalized on Michigan’s multitude of penalty lapses. The outmatched Lancers benefitted from eight minutes on the power play, entering the third period down 6-2. 

And coming out of the second break, the Wolverines continued to struggle with penalties as Moyle logged a holding penalty of his own. Yet after an efficient kill, and freshman defenseman Seamus Casey’s second goal of the day, Michigan cruised to a 7-2 lead.

From there, it was smooth sailing as a diving backhanded goal by senior forward Nick Granowicz encapsulated the epitome of the contest. A grittier than expected matchup, yet with the talent rising to the top. 

“It’s good to just get our first game under us and start hitting other people,” Samoskevich said. “We were just going at it for a while in practice, so it was good to start playing against other people.”

For an exhibition matchup against an underdog opponent, the bone-crunching attitude of the contest points to a dedicated level of aggression and also the promising talent that this new season brings.