On Friday night, as the puck dropped in the No. 7 Michigan Hockey team’s first regular season game against Lindenwood (0-3 overall), a new era began for the Wolverines (1-0). And following a summer of turbulence and off-ice drama, Michigan’s on-ice play finally took the center stage once again as it defeated Lindenwood 7-4 in comeback fashion.
But just fifteen minutes in, the Wolverines looked like they were entering Michigan coach Brandon Naurato’s tenure on a flat foot. Down 2-0 and being out-muscled and out-worked by a physical Lions group, the Wolverines needed more than a spark to salvage their season opener.
In just just an eleven minute stretch, they found that spark — not once, not twice, but six times. And just as quickly as Michigan dug itself into an apparent hole, it stormed into a dominant position that it wouldn’t relinquish.
The night’s action started slowly on both sides as the Wolverines and Lions spent the majority of the first period trying to retain possession of the puck, with neither team jumping into the driver’s seat. But following Lindenwood’s outburst, Michigan was down a goal at the end of the first period.
But the Lions lead wouldn’t last long.
Michigan came out the first intermission blazing, with the forecheck firing on all cylinders. Lindenwood, frankly, looked overwhelmed. The Wolverine offense was hot, and the Lions had no response. Michigan kept pucks deep, their defensemen had the time and space to make cross ice passes and their forwards won battles on the boards, and it led to goals.
“I’d love to tell you that we had some great speech after the first,” Naurato said. “We said some things, but we said some things before the game and we said some things after the second. They just made the decision to go and do it.”
Sophomore forward Mackie Samoskevich was the first to strike with a pair of hard wristers from the slot just one and three minutes into the period respectively, and the Wolverines took a 3-2 lead for the first time.
“(Samoskevich) is always a great player,” Hallum said. “He can hit guys, he can score, he can make plays. … We needed that start and it was big.”
Samoskevich set the tone, in his first two shifts in a period where Michigan needed a spark plug, he provided. He raced around the ice on the forecheck, battled for pucks along the boards, and when he was in a position to score, he made it count.
But the offensive onslaught was only just getting started. And three more goals from senior forward Nick Granowicz, senior defenseman Jay Keranen and sophomore forward Mark Estapa rounded out the attack.
“In the second period, we were just doing stuff we’ve been practicing all week,” Estapa said. “Going low to high, shooting pucks and just winning the netfront, and that’s ultimately what led to success in the second period.”
The contest settled to more predictable pace midway through the second period, and it’d coast through the rest of the game at this speed. But the Wolverines remained on the front, ending the night with a 55-21 shot advantage.
Lindenwood managed two more goals, one in the second and one in the third, and Michigan’s senior forward Eric Ciccolini tipped a one timer from freshman forward TJ Hughes that found the back of the net late in the game to notch the score at 7-4, the point where it settled.
For 50 minutes of Friday’s game, Michigan and Lindenwood battled in a tough contest. But for ten minutes, the Wolverines dominated. And those ten minutes were the deciding factor that salvaged a comfortable 7-4 victory from a lethargic start.
But despite the margin of victory, Naurato, stoic in his post game interview, seemed to demand more from his squad:
“We’ll show them tomorrow,” Naurato said. “I can’t wait to watch the video.”