In tonight’s 6-1 beatdown of Lake Superior State, its special teams showed one side: dominance.
Through the first seven minutes of the Wolverines’ home-opener at Yost Ice Arena, it was all Lakers. Michigan’s sloppy play and turnovers early led to a flurry of shots from Lake Superior State, who totalled three shots to Michigan’s zero through the first two plus minutes of play.
Six minutes in, Lake Superior continued control of the game. It won a faceoff in the attack zone, and stayed on the offensive. Defenseman Arvid Henrikson launched a quality shot at the net, taking a valiant effort by sophomore goaltender Erik Portillo — who sprawled to his left and clamped the puck down onto the ice with his glove and pads — to keep the matchup knotted at zero.
The Wolverines were playing defensive, left reeling for answers. With around 13 minutes left in the period, after being outshot and struggling to match the Lakers’ physicality, Lake Superior defenseman Jacob Nordqvist was booked for tripping.
Michigan went on the power play and found its answer.
The previously sloppy Wolverines were a fine-oiled machine as they took their man-up advantage. Earlier in the period, freshman forward Mackie Samoskevich and junior forward Nick Granowicz both whiffed on one-timer opportunities with nothing but the goal ahead of them. Michigan suffered no such fate as the first power play rolled around.
The goal came quickly. Sophomore forward Thomas Bordeleau sprinted up with the puck left of the goal, drawing the defense towards him before snapping the puck over to sophomore forward Brendan Brisson. Brisson was unguarded in the middle of the ice and propelled the one-timer into the top of the net, leaving goaltender Seth Eisele with no time to react and turning the tide towards the Wolverines.
Following the power play goal, Michigan took complete control of the affair, and with special teams leading the way, the Wolverines’ sluggish start was a distant memory.
Handed a five-minute major after defenseless senior defenseman Jack Summers was crushed into the boards by defenseman Jacob Bengtsson, sophomore forward Kent Johnson extended the Wolverines’ lead. He redirected a shot coming in hot from the right by Brisson, shoveling it into the top of the net.
It wasn’t just the early effectiveness of the power play, but the penalty kill that ensured a Michigan victory.
Lake Superior gained a man-up with two minutes left in the first period after senior forward Nolan Moyle was caught holding an opposing stick. The Wolverine defense was suffocating throughout the penalty kill, allowing only two shots while taking two shorthanded shots of their own.
The momentum from Michigan’s stellar period-ending penalty kill carried over into the second period, as the start of the frame served as a polar opposite to the beginning of the game. The Wolverines enjoyed scoring chances in abundance, including Johnson scooping the puck up and carrying it on his stick, nearly sneaking it past the goaltender three minutes into the period.
Following the flurry of chances, the Wolverines began to convert, scoring two quick goals early in the second to ensure the game would be fully out of reach.
In a game filled with penalties, Michigan special teams were dominant. It killed six of seven Lake Superior power plays, and the penalty kills were without question. Each time, the Lakers were constantly chasing down cleared pucks, and managing to fire indirect, measly shots at best.
Although the Wolverines’ power play was a solid two for six, the line doesn’t tell the whole story. Michigan developed aggressive attacks in each power play, wearing down Lake Superior skaters and opening up goal scoring after full strength was achieved.
Following a slow start in its home opener, the Wolverines’ special teams took over the game. Once they did, there was no looking back.