Rocking new white sweaters to start the season, the No. 5 Michigan hockey team entered the new season in style.
Not only did the Wolverines beat Simon Fraser 8-1 in their first exhibition game of the season, but also they saw contributions from a variety of freshmen new to the team.
“I thought we did a lot of good things,” Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said postgame. “Everyone came back and had big summers. We are just seeing what we have with some of the freshmen and transfers, and we are just trying to put guys in spots where they can show their value.”
The Wolverines peppered Simon Fraser goaltender Kolby Matthews early and often to start the game. Between shots from the point and one-timers from the slot, Michigan’s hunger to score was evident from the start.
It was only a matter of time before Michigan capitalized on one of its many opportunities — even if that opportunity came shorthanded.
Pouncing off a Red Leafs turnover during a first-period penalty kill, freshman forward Garrett Schifsky confidently took the puck in stride the length of the ice. With sophomore forward Jackson Hallum waiting patiently on the wing, Schifsky sauced the puck to Hallum who finished the play for his first goal of the season.
After scoring their first goal of the game, the Wolverines never looked back. Michigan received contributions from throughout the lineup, including from new additions like freshman forward Nick Moldenhauer.
With just under six minutes left in the first period, junior forward Dylan Duke stormed the net and fired a shot from the top of the right circle. Sitting on the doorstop, Moldenhauer buried the rebound within seconds to secure his first goal of the season, the first of his collegiate career and the 3-0 lead
“It was surreal,” Moldenhauer said about his first collegiate game. “I’ve been waiting for this day for a while now, and to finally grab a hold of it — it was awesome. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut.”
And Moldenhauer was not the only freshman who notched their first collegiate goal. Cradling the puck around the back of the net, Schifsky fired a wrister to the top left corner of the cage midway through the second period, scoring a goal of his own that put his team up 6-0.
“They’re good kids who just want to be the best versions of themselves,” Naurato said about the incoming freshmen. “There’s that healthy competition everyday, but they are all learning and growing. … They are quick learners.”
Although Michigan’s newer faces made a memorable impression, returning players like sophomore forward Rutger McGroarty and sophomore defenseman Seamus Casey still made their presence known.
Combining for seven points on the evening – three goals and four assists – Casey and McGroarty were all over the scoresheet, helping lead the Wolverines to the blowout victory.
Michigan players, both new and returning, indeed made an impact scoring goals. They also did so by taking an abundance of penalties.
By the end of the game, Michigan had taken a total of six penalties, providing a first look at the team’s penalty kill unit in which transfer players like graduate defenseman Marshall Warren stood out.
Warren registered five blocked shots, and he still managed a plus-two performance despite logging minutes on the team’s first penalty kill unit.
Such a showing enabled the Wolverines to look past all of their penalties and dominate the Red Leafs from start to finish.
So if Michigan’s newest players can replicate their success from today’s game moving forward, dominance against Simon Fraser may be just the start to larger accomplishments.