Nine minutes remained in the first period when freshman forward Brendan Warren picked up a loose puck in the defensive zone.
He carried it to center ice before dishing the puck to fellow freshman forward Kyle Connor along the boards.
Connor cradled the puck toward the outside of the right circle, leaving a Niagara defenseman in the dust. With plenty of time to shoot, Connor completed the highlight reel, sniping the puck top shelf to give the Michigan hockey team a 3-0 lead.
Connor’s goal was one of three that the Wolverines scored in the first period and ended up being one of the seven tallies they piled on to beat the Purple Eagles, 7-3, on Friday night.
Even with those players, though, before the Niagara matchup and prior to the season the Wolverines faced an intimidating question: How would their offense fare after losing its top three point scorers from 2014?
That trio — consisting of Zach Hyman, Dylan Larkin and Andrew Copp — combined for 51 goals and 81 assists before leaving to pursue their respective professional careers.
But Friday night, after lighting the lamp time and time again, Michigan seemed to fill that void with ease, giving both fans and skeptics an answer to the question that loomed in the preseason.
While the Purple Eagles aren’t elite competition, tallying 48 shots is still an impressive indication of how lethal the Wolverine offense can be. Forty-eight scoring chances isn’t a fluke, either — Michigan is averaging 40.7 shots per game and 4.4 goals per game to go with it.
Though the Wolverines have played just seven games against primarily weak opponents, those numbers surpass the 2014 marks of 34.7 and 3.9 in the respective categories.
And against Niagara, six different Michigan skaters combined for seven goals: a display of a balanced Wolverine attack shaping up to be four lines deep.
The third line — composed of sophomore forward Tony Calderone and freshman forwards Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren — led the offensive onslaught with six points, while the first and second lines combined for eight.
“(The balance) is huge,” Marody said. “One of our strengths is we have four lines that have guys that can score. We know that we can score.”
What is even more impressive is that Michigan’s four-headed monster on the offensive end scored in almost every way imaginable against the Purple Eagles.
Connor’s goal in the first period was an example of the individual flair the Wolverines have on the ice.
Roughly 10 minutes into the first period, senior forward Justin Selman deflected freshman defenseman Nicholas Boka’s shot to notch Michigan’s second goal of the night. The goal showed that the Wolverines can find twine with simple fundamentals.
And Calderone’s lamp-lighter just over four minutes into the third period was a glimpse of Michigan’s willingness to earn gritty goals that boil down to battles of effort. After Werenski’s shot off the faceoff was deflected, Calderone beat two Niagara skaters to the puck and put it home while falling to the ice, giving the Wolverines a 6-2 lead.
But even with seven goals, the walloping of the Purple Eagles still left something to be desired for Berenson.
“I’m not surprised the puck is going in,” Berenson said. “But like last year, the puck went in our end too much. We might have led the Big Ten in goals for last year, but look where we were in goals against. So that’s our challenge at Michigan, with the kind of players and the kind of teams we’ve been.”
The Wolverines seem to have the makings of a potent offense similar to that of the 2014 campaign. Yet even with the 143 goals amassed last year, Michigan was left with just a loss in the Big Ten Tournament finals and an exclusion from the NCAA Tournament to show for it.
Now, the offense on display against Niagara has the opportunity to play a different role in the writing of the 2015 script.