James Sanchez was one of two Michigan hockey players sitting in the post game press conference Saturday night. In the past hour, he had scored two goals against Union, leading to a 4-0 win to avenge a loss from the day before.
Asked during the press conference what was going through his head on those scoring plays, he answered, “Definitely shoot.”
His response provoked a wave of laughter from the reporters in the room, but it was honest all the same. Stepping in as one of two players with two goals, the freshman forward is learning quickly for the 13th-ranked Wolverines. When playing Union on Friday, they relinquished an early-game lead and dropped the match up, 4-3. This time around, Michigan needed to establish a lead the Dutchmen couldn’t erase. Sanchez’s two goals did just that, building up the score. Union couldn’t combat it, and Michigan (1-1) recorded its first win of the season.
Playing on the third line with senior forwards Evan Allen and Max Shuart, Sanchez has had the opportunity during practice to learn from some of the few veterans left on the team. And he seems to be pairing with them well — not only because he’s a freshman who scored multiple goals in the second game of the season, but also because both goals came off of Shuart’s assists.
“It kind of played out, being on (Shuart’s) line the whole time,” Sanchez said. “We play well together. I think he had two great plays, and he found me, and from there I scored.”
During the second period and down down a player during a penalty kill, Shuart stole the puck from a Union pass and sent it toward Sanchez, who was already headed toward Union’s goal on a breakaway. A quick wrister past Dutchman defender Jake Kupsky garnered Sanchez his first career goal and granted Michigan its 3-0 lead.
Shuart and Sanchez did it again, two minutes into the third quarter. Shuart was able to steal the puck from Union and send it down the ice to Sanchez, found the net behind Kupsky once more.
Sanchez ended his first official weekend as a Wolverine with two goals and a humble attitude.
“I wouldn’t base anything for the whole year off of one game,” Sanchez said. “There’s definitely more work that needs to be done and some improvements as well. I mean, yeah it’s good to keep that confidence rolling to another game, but there is definitely more work to be done.”
Shuart, meanwhile, tallied another assist during Friday’s game off of a power play. Junior forward Tony Calderone just got done killing his time in the penalty box when Shuart stole a pass from the Dutchmen and sent it straight to Calderone, who scored a breakaway goal and set the score 2-0.
He, like Sanchez, is enjoying a bigger role this season, a year older. Even in a loss, Shuart’s assist foreshadowed what would be made clear in Saturday’s game. Whether it’s noticing an open player who just killed off a penalty or putting faith in a freshman like Sanchez who he’s been practicing with, Shuart can find optimal scoring opportunities.
The pair will see action again this weekend against Ferris State, and if Shuart can generate a few more of these opportunities, Sanchez may be able to add a few more goals to his record.