After struggling in multiple facets of the game last weekend, the Michigan hockey team corrected many of those mistakes on Friday, beating Arizona State, 4-1.
Much of the focus this season has been on the goaltending situation for the Wolverines, and against the Sun Devils, they decided to go back to senior Zach Nagelvoort in net. Nagelvoort hadn’t started since the first game of the season for Michigan, but he stood strong, accruing 31 saves.
After his performance on Friday, there still isn’t a clear-cut starter for the rest of the season — freshmen Jack LaFontaine and Hayden Lavigne have shared the bulk of the action so far. But as far as teammates are concerned, all of the goaltenders have the rest of the Wolverines’ full support.
“I think we have all of the confidence in the world in all of them,” said senior defenseman Nolan De Jong. “They’re competing their asses off, and they’re getting the chance to play. Today (Nagelvoort) showed that he was prepared and ready to go. So we’ll see what happens next week and what the coaches do with the starting goalie, but he’s a guy that we all trust back there to do well.”
For his own part, De Jong joined the offensive output for Michigan. The senior notched the first goal in his four years with the Wolverines, and while it isn’t necessarily his role to be a scorer, De Jong was certainly relieved to get the monkey off his back.
“It’s been a long time since I scored a goal in a meaningful game,” De Jong said. “So it feels good, but it’s nice to be able to contribute again offensively, and finally get back in the win column.”
And while De Jong’s goal began the scoring for Michigan, its other goals came from the most watched group on the team: the freshmen.
Forward Will Lockwood scored two goals, one shorthanded, while fellow forward Adam Winborg contributed with a goal of his own. Winborg’s was the second of the year in as many games.
And though the offense was finally impressive for the Wolverines, arguably the team’s most impressive unit of the night was its penalty kill. Michigan was called for seven penalties in the game, but its penalty kill stood tall. The unit didn’t allow any goals all night.
“It’s just part of the game, and those are the minutes that I like to play,” De Jong said. “Any way that I can help the team, or the guys that kill penalties can help the team, we’re more than willing to put our bodies on the line. We had some big blocks from guys like (freshman forward) Steven Merl, and (freshman defenseman) Luke Martin was really good on the penalty kill. So I think we know what we have to do.”
The Wolverines will now face potentially the best team on their schedule, when they take on No. 4 Boston University next weekend at Yost Ice Arena. And even with the win against the Sun Devils, Michigan knows it still needs to improve to pull out an upset.
“It’s going to come back to defense and goaltending,” De Jong said. “I think we gave up too many odd-man rushes where we didn’t get a bounce and gave up 2-on-0 and a few 2-on-1s where they could have capitalized. And we can’t afford to give up those opportunities to Boston.
“But we’re going to continue to improve and be ready for Boston.”