Sophomore defenseman Luke Martin and senior forward Dexter Dancs helped fans at Yost Ice Arena let out a sigh of relief with a first period, power play goal that slipped past the opposing goaltender.
On a heavily-anticipated Friday evening, the Michigan hockey team took on Western Ontario in the first exhibition match of the season. Following a season of disappointment last year — but paired with high expectations for this year’s team under new coach Mel Pearson — one could notice that every member of the crowd was on the edge of their seats.
One of the most distinguishing — and surprising — traits of the exhibition match was a newfound offensive initiative.
“The goal scoring,” Pearson said. “We were 42nd in offense last year, so we weren’t sure where the goals were going to come from.”
The Wolverines, who failed to score over six goals in a single game last year, proved that nervousness futile in a 10-1 win that can only be described as a one-sided offensive pandemonium.
Michigan took its new ethos of an unwavering, fast-paced offense to heart with two goals early in the first period. After Dancs’ deflection goal off Martin’s shot just over four minutes into play, Michigan did not hesitate to pick apart the Mustang defense, unleashing 15 shots on goal in the first period.
After a successful counterattack just over nine minutes in, junior forward Cooper Marody carried the puck down the right side of the ice, delivered a crisp pass to Dancs under the goal, who, in robotic precision, passed to senior forward Tony Calderone for a one-timer.
“I know where Tony is on the ice. I’ve played with him the last two or three years,” Dancs said. “ … I know where he likes to be and that’s the high slot.”
Western Ontario’s frustrations with the unrelenting Wolverine offense came to fruition when Mitchell Brooks ripped the helmet off Martin, resulting in an immediate ejection from the game and a five-minute major penalty.
The Wolverines entered the locker room up on Western Ontario, 2-0, leaving no spectator in doubt that the era under Pearson looks promising.
The second period started much like the first, with the Wolverines dominating the shot count and possession.
Five minutes into resuming play, though, the Mustangs seemingly found a new leg to stand on, with two breakaway opportunities. Sophomore goaltender Jack LaFontaine thwarted both chances – the latter being a sweeping glove save meant for a highlight reel.
Michigan quickly settled in once again, netting its third goal on a dish from senior defenseman Cutler Martin down in front of the net to fifth-year senior forward Alex Roos, who finished the job.
But they didn’t stop there.
Following a brawl behind the Western Ontario net, sophomore forward Will Lockwood deked the Mustangs’ goaltender, Luke Peressini, on a penalty shot to put the Wolverines up by four.
From there, Michigan exerted its dominance, as the Wolverines let 27 shots fly resulting in two more goals.
Marody kicked off the third period in similar fashion to the first and second after just 53 seconds when he seamlessly netted a cross-ice pass. Martin and sophomore forward Jake Slaker followed up on the trend with two goals of their own.
After Trevor Warnaar became the Mustangs’ second ejection — leaving the stadium for misconduct —Western Ontario’s chances even for a pride-saving comeback seemed dim. Immediately following the ejection, sophomore forward James Sanchez deflected a shot past Peressini for the teams 10th goal.
“Starting off the year like that,” Calderone said. “It shows the work that we did in the summer is paying off a little bit.”
In a last-chance effort to avoid the shutout, center Ray Huether put in the Mustangs’ first goal off a scrum in front of the net, limiting the Wolverines’ lead to nine.
Nine different Michigan players found the net in a statement that the new fast-paced, eclectic and gritty Wolverines are taking steps to reverse last year’s storyline.