With an extra point on the line, Seamus Casey stepped up confidently.
In Saturday’s matchup with No. 6 Minnesota, the sophomore defenseman put on a show as he netted a backhanded goal in the shootout to give the No. 12 Michigan hockey team a much-needed advantage.
And even before Casey’s shot snuck behind the Golden Gophers goaltender, sending the Wolverines’ home crowd into a frenzy and securing the shootout win, his teammates had a feeling he would score.
“Having him go on shootouts on me in practice, I kind of knew once he went sideways there, he could do anything,” graduate goaltender Jake Barczewski said Saturday. “He’s special and especially in those situations, he’s the kind of guy you want out there.”’
Casey’s versatility, as a defenseman who becomes a formidable offensive threat as soon as he gets the puck on his stick, has been huge for Michigan thus far — from the opening faceoff to the final buzzer, and the occasional shootout.
With 17 total points this season, he’s tied with sophomore forward T.J. Hughes for second-most among the Wolverines, behind only sophomore forward Rutger McGroarty — who leads the nation with 18.
“To see what he does out there and how patient he is with the puck and how skilled he is, it’s honestly ridiculous,” sophomore defenseman Luca Fantilli said. “He definitely drives our D-core to add more of an offensive side and we all kind of hop on his back for that.”
Although Casey has certainly taken a step forward since last year’s campaign, his offensive upside and skill is nothing new.
Sophomore forward Gavin Brindley, who grew up alongside Casey, will tell you as much.
“I’ve played with him since I was five years old, so (it’s the) same stuff I see out there that he was doing in mites and peewees, so it’s pretty crazy,” Brindley said. “Obviously he’s a big time offensive threat, really good with his stick defensively and (an) extremely smart player so he’s having a lot of success.”
Even as he continues to showcase his offensive prowess, Casey doesn’t let his role as a defenseman fall by the wayside. In fact, he translates his skills on attack to become an even better defenseman.
“He rarely makes mistakes in the D zone,” Fantilli said. “… He’s just always in the right spot and his skating puts him in those positions, same with his vision. He can just see where the play is gonna go and where it’s going to be and he just always ends up getting the puck somehow and making a play.”
Fantilli went on to explain how “truly amazing” it is that he gets to learn from Casey every day in practice. He expressed nothing but praise and respect for his roommate, who doubles as one of his “best buddies.”
And Fantilli wasn’t the only Wolverine to describe Casey in a similar light. When asked about Casey’s impact on both sides of the puck this season, his teammates’ reactions often speak for themselves — smiles and shaken heads as they attempt to put his skill and significance into words.
Because just as Barczewski knew Casey would score as soon as he went sideways, the Wolverines know how important the defenseman is for Michigan — all over the ice.