Typically, teams record fewer penalty minutes in a period than minutes played.
But in the Michigan hockey team’s exhibition win over Windsor on Saturday, that wasn’t the case. Within the first 13 minutes of the game, the Lancers went to the box five times, totaling 21 penalty minutes.
So it was important that the Wolverines found a way to capitalize. Michigan scored four of its eight goals on the power play, going 3-for-5 in the first period — with one of the three goals coming just seconds after a five-on-three advantage ended — to set the tone for the rest of the game.
“It’s just our identity,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said. “We had a shot-first mentality, guys outnumber and converge to the net on the power play.”
In its first chance of the night, though, the special teams unit wasn’t very effective. The Wolverines generated three shots, but none were premier chances. Meanwhile, Windsor’s penalty kill consistently dumped the puck out of their zone, preventing consistent momentum towards the net.
But after that first trial run, Michigan quickly ramped it up.
On their second odd-man chance of the night, freshman forward Adam Fantilli, sophomore forward Mackie Samoskevich and junior defenseman Jacob Truscott began cycling between the point and the wings, passing back and forth while launching shots on goal. By the third cycle, Samoskevich pulled Fantilli’s pass in at the point, firing a wrister into the back of the net.
“We were moving it pretty well,” Samoskevich said. “We were shooting it a lot. When we pass around and hold onto pucks too long, that’s when stuff kinda closes on us.”
And for the rest of the period, the flood gates blew open — beginning when Lancer forward Keegan McMullen took a knee to junior forward Philippe Lapointe, earning himself a five minute major.
With so much time at a man advantage, Naurato chose to use the exhibition game to try out a new combination: Lapointe, freshman forward Kienan Draper and junior defenseman Steve Holtz.
The result was a resounding success.
Mere seconds after getting onto the ice, Draper threaded a one-timer through the slot, right to the stick of Holtz. Holtz let the puck fly into the top right corner, extending the Wolverines’ lead.
“I mean, even that third unit we put out during the five minute major (worked),” Naurato said. “(Draper) hasn’t practiced there once, and sends a nice seam play over to Holtz for the goal. So, good for them.”
The special teams scoring onslaught continued on, with more and more new faces getting involved. Seconds after McMullen’s major ended — and following another Windsor roughing penalty that briefly gave Michigan a two-man advantage — sophomore forward Mark Estapa blasted the puck deep into the net, finally bringing the Lancers back to even strength.
After that, the Wolverines’ special teams unit began to cool off, going 1-for-4 on their remaining chances. But with the first three goals of the game coming via the power play, the unit’s impact was already set in stone.
“There’s always teaching points, but zero negatives tonight,” Naurato said. “We’re trying to build a safe environment where these guys can fail forward.”
Though there wasn’t much failure, Michigan’s power play unit certainly showed how it can drive this team forward.