When Joseph Cecconi received the puck off a faceoff, there was nobody between him and Wisconsin goaltender Matt Jurusik.
In the midst of a 3-2 game between the Badgers and the Michigan hockey team on Saturday, the sophomore defenseman didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. He shot the puck, and despite the lack of traffic in front of Jurusik, it found the back of the net.
It was the first goal of Cecconi’s career, and all of the other Wolverines on the ice swarmed him as he threw both hands in the air. All except senior defenseman Nolan De Jong, that is. He skated toward the referee with his bare hand outstretched, asking for the puck so he could give it to Cecconi to keep.
This is the usual routine for when players score their first collegiate goal.
“I think it’s more of an instinctual thing when you’re a senior,” said senior forward Alex Kile. “I feel like every time someone’s scored this year, if it’s their first goal, someone made sure they grabbed (the puck) right away, and make the guy happy.”
Kile has seen both sides of this tradition for himself. On Dec. 15, he assisted freshman forward Jake Slaker for his first career goal, and on Dec. 29, he did the same for freshman forward Adam Winborg.
Both times he was the one asking the referee for the puck to give to a first-time scorer.
On Nov. 22 in the 2013-14 season, Kile scored his first career goal against Niagara.
“I just kind of played it off,” Kile said. “On the replay, I just kind of throw my hands up in the air — no big celebration or anything. I was just kind of more frustrated that it took me nine games to score.”
That type of celebration is standard across the players’ varied experiences, too. Cecconi said after his goal that he wasn’t “going to go down and do the nice celebration like some of the forwards do.”
Yet, for some, their first career goal isn’t always a happy occasion — as was the case for freshman defenseman Griffin Luce. On Feb. 11, with just 10 seconds left in the game, he scored against Michigan State, but the Wolverines were already losing by four goals.
For Luce, the experience was a mix of emotions.
“Obviously I was excited for myself,” Luce said. “… But at the same time, in a game like that, with (10) seconds left, I mean it doesn’t really make a difference in the game. Later on, actually, I saw that it was their goalie’s first win, so I was kind of happy that I spoiled his shutout.”
Because of the situation, though, Luce’s goal didn’t warrant as much of a celebration. In fact, nobody went and grabbed the puck for him. Instead, equipment manager Ian Hume found the puck for him afterward.
That is the main thing all of the players have in common. No matter where their first goal was scored, or in what situation, all of them have kept the puck or given it to a close family member. Kile’s resides in his house in Troy, Mich., Luce keeps his in his dorm room, and Cecconi mentioned that he wanted to give his to his father or grandfather once he got home.
“It’s good to get that weight off your shoulders,” Kile said. “I know, at times, people don’t score after a certain amount of time, and they kind of just have that weight on their shoulder, so I’m glad when they just get it out of the way.”
There is still more opportunity for first goals this season, as three Michigan players still haven’t scored. And if they do manage to find the back of the net, one thing is certain: the puck and the memory will be with them forever.