Nick Granowicz could only watch. 

The freshman forward saw Wisconsin forward Cole Caufield skate with the puck from the right side of the boards over to center ice. Caufield spun to face the net as senior forward Nick Pastujov slid on his knees to try and block the shot. 

A shot never came though — Pastujov fell for Caufield’s fake shot deke.

Then senior defenseman Luke Martin dove on one knee attempting to do what Pastujov couldn’t, but it was too late. The puck had already left Caufield’s stick. 

A moment later, it connected with the back of the net.

The penalty box door swung open, and amid Wisconsin’s celebrations, Granowicz skated back to the bench — dejected at his costly mistake. 

He’d served just 56 seconds of his two-minute minor penalty for roughing. 

The call was the result of a punch Granowicz had thrown at a Badger play after the two had a battle on the boards.

As he sat on the bench, the reality of the situation hit him. The Wolverines’ two-goal lead was gone, and the Badgers were clawing their way back into the game because of his penalty.

“I felt horrible right after I did it,” Granowicz said. “I knew I messed up right away. I let my emotions kind of get the better of me. It was just a bad feeling. After they scored, it just made it even worse. I felt really bad because I let my teammates down at that point.”

After having a front-row view of Caufield’s goal from the box, Granowicz spent the remaining five-and-a-half minutes of Sunday’s 3-1 watching the game from a different vantage point — the bench.

But the decision wasn’t a punishment, rather a learning moment, according to Michigan coach Mel Pearson. 

Pearson pointed out at that point, Wisconsin had all the momentum and was threatening to repeat a second comeback effort after scoring three unanswered goals to beat Michigan 3-2, on Saturday. So he used the repercussions of an untimely penalty as a way to teach the players what to do in the situation. 

It was an opportunity to show not only Granowicz, but the entire team, the importance of emotional control. 

“We’ve all done some things, taken some bad penalties,” Pearson said. “It’s a good learning lesson for our whole team, it’s an emotional game, we want guys to play with emotion, but it has to be controlled emotion.”

Caufield’s goal didn’t end up mattering. Forty-five seconds later, Ty Emberson received a five-minute major and a 10-minute game misconduct for contact with Pastujov’s head. The Wolverines caught a break and finished the game on the power play.

When senior forward Jake Slaker scored an empty net, power play goal, Granowicz breathed a sigh of relief. His momentary lapse in emotional control proved to be relatively inconsequential.

But still, Granowicz felt he owed his team an explanation. So in the locker room, he addressed his teammates.

“It’s just accountability and ownership for your actions,” Granowicz said. “If you mess up you should apologize to your teammates and tell them you’re sorry. Telling them you know you messed up. You’re sorry that you let them down, and you’re going to try and change and not let that happen again.”

No one on the team placed any blame on him. Slaker recalled two weekends ago when junior forward Michael Pastujov took a penalty after the whistle and negated a power-play opportunity for Michigan. The team wasn’t mad then, and it isn’t now.

Sometimes players lose control of their emotions. The important thing the Wolverines have chosen to emphasize is their willingness to reflect on the situation and learn from it.

“We were going to kill the penalty for him no matter what,” Slaker said. “(Granowicz) came in, and I thought he played a great game which is the most important part.”

For Granowicz, learning emotional control is part of the adjustment from junior to college hockey.

At the junior level, referees are sometimes more lenient with physical play. But in the NCAA, referees are more strict and aim to keep the game well controlled. 

This strictness hurt Granowicz especially — he hasn’t seen much lineup time this season, so the adjustment has been harsh. 

He’s only dressed four times, but he’s not using that as an excuse for his loss of control. Pearson’s message for him was well-received and well-understood — mistakes are okay, but it’s critical to grow from them.

Granowicz’s penalty aside, Pearson and his teammates were impressed with his performance. 

And while Sunday night proved an important learning moment for Granowicz, it granted Pearson a chance for reflection on the lineup decisions he’s been making. 

“I thought he had a really good game,” Pearson said. “For a kid who has only played three games, we’ve got to play him more, coach isn’t playing him enough. We’ve got to get him involved.”

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