It’s not uncommon for a Thanksgiving dinner to feature a flashy new dish. Maybe someone makes a green bean casserole or cooks an unconventional flavor of pie. 

But at the end of the day, the turkey is the staple of the Thanksgiving meal, and even if it’s not always talked about, the dinner wouldn’t be the same without it. 

That’s what Strauss Mann is to Michigan hockey. 

“He’s always working on his game,” freshman forward Brendan Brisson said. “He’s got his own diet, his own everything that just translates over to his game.”

The No. 4 Michigan hockey team has gotten off to an undefeated start, and while the offense has been hot — already scoring 18 goals — Mann has been the driving force behind a large portion of the team’s success. The junior goaltender has allowed just four goals on 84 shots faced and already picked up a shutout against Arizona State. 

“It’s just such a confidence booster,” freshman forward Thomas Bordeleau said. “He’s worked so hard and it just makes you better.”

Going into this season, teammates showed their belief in Mann when he was voted captain — a rarity for goaltenders and he’s more than rewarded their trust. Mann’s ability to stonewall opponents has opened up more scoring opportunities for everyone. 

“It’s huge just knowing you have the freedom to to try a bunch of stuff,” Bordeleau said. “For the (defense), just the freedom to join the rush and just kind of feel confident about who’s behind them.”

As a result of that freedom, defensemen have been a huge beneficiary of Mann’s presence on the backend. Sophomore Cam York and Freshman Owen Power have both tallied a goal and three assists already. 

“I’m just seeing how focused (Strauss) is, how dialed in he is on everything,” Power said. “It’s been pretty cool to learn from him and kind of pick his brain on little things that he does that maybe I want to implement into my game.”

Mann is the quarterback of the team, and while Michigan spends a lot of time down in the offensive zone, he always stays locked in and alert. He’ll call out when an opposing winger slips behind the defense looking for a breakaway. He’s worked out a set of code words to determine which side he should play the puck to when he has it behind the goal.  

“I feel like he’s just gonna keep getting better every single game,” Brisson said. “He’s gonna be really, really hard to score on throughout these next couple games and throughout the season because his intensity with practice, his intensity with everything is really elite.”

This Wolverines team features a lot of talent all over the ice, but Mann’s work ethic is unrivaled. He’s dedicated to his craft and his teammates have clearly taken notice. The freshmen have only been here a few months and are already praising his leadership on and off the ice. 

“I think he’s just so solid,“ Bordeleau said. “Having a player that’s so serious on and off the ice just brings the team to a whole other level.”

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