Coming off of a 1-1 series split against Western Michigan last weekend, the Michigan hockey team’s offense clicked and the defense struggled as they both poured in and allowed 10 goals over two games. On Friday, though, the goals didn’t come as easily, as the Wolverines (2-2) battled their way to a 3-0 shutout of St. Lawrence at Yost Ice Arena.
Michigan struck early after going on a power play at the 18:56 mark in the first period. Junior Jake Slaker cleaned up a scrum in front of the net to put the Wolverines up 1-0 exactly one minute into the power play, notching his second of the season.
Although the opportunities on offense continued, Saints goaltender Arthur Brey was formidable in the crease. Michigan had a clear advantage in speed, though, and was able to advance the puck into the offensive zone with ease. However, it was unable to find twine –– often failing to move the puck in the zone.
St. Lawrence had its fair share of scoring opportunities in the first period as well, but junior goaltender Hayden Lavigne was solid in the net and held a clean sheet on eight shots in the first period from the Saints.
“Hayden Lavigne had his best game of the year,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “I thought he looked in control and calm in the net. They had a flurry there in the first period, I think they had three or four shots, bang bang bang, and he did a phenomenal job.”
The second period featured even more opportunities on offense, as the shots came early and often for the Wolverines. They connected on more passes in the offensive zone, unlike in the first period. However, Brey seemed to be gaining confidence in the crease as play continued –– foiling open looks on saves such as the one Slaker had in a shorthanded opportunity halfway through the period.
St. Lawrence was called for too many men on the ice with 9:40 remaining in the second period, and finally, Michigan was able to capitalize –– once again, on the power play –– as sophomore forward Michael Pastujov cleaned up the loose puck to push the lead to 2-0.
Despite the Wolverines racking up 27 shots through two periods, Brey nearly single-handedly kept his team in the game, recording 25 saves.
More of the same continued in the third period — Michigan kept up the pressure on offense, but Brey answered the call.
However, with 5:24 remaining in regulation, Slaker darted up the right wing and made a cross-ice pass to a streaking sophomore forward Josh Norris on the left side of the ice, beating Brey past his right pad to extend the lead to 3-0 –– this one coming at even strength.
“We noticed pretty early that he was good down low,” Pastujov said. “So, we just tried to lift the puck. Eventually we kind of just got scoring chances that weren’t from the outside –– we just had to get shots from the inside. Once we did that, I thought we cracked him a few times.”
Offensively, Michigan recorded 40 shots throughout the game. On the defensive end of the ice, the Wolverines seemed to improve on the woes that have plagued them thus far this season, as they allowed just 16 shots throughout the game.
“We’ve worked hard at our defensive game,” Pearson said. “We’re going to have to continue to work hard on it. But that’s a good statement right there. That’s — if you don’t give up any goals, like I told them, you’re going to win your share of games this year and that’s where it’s all got to start.”