Michigan drops season opener to Union, 4-3

Friday, October 7, 2016 - 8:57pm
The No. 11 Michigan hockey team spent most of its season opener in its own defensive zone fending off Union.
 
The Dutchmen outshot the Wolverines 40 to 23, mounting an impressive attack against the Michigan defense and senior goalkeeper Zach Nagelvoort. 
 
But somehow, despite it all, the Wolverines found themselves nursing a 3-2 lead with just over six minutes left in the third period. 
 
Union (1-0), though, erased that lead in a matter of two-and-a-half minutes, taking the regular season opener against Michigan, 4-3.
 
Dutchmen center Mike Vecchione scored on a power-play goal to tie the game at three apiece, sneaking one in past Nagelvoort before defenseman Jeff Taylor gave the Dutchmen the lead and eventual victory with another wrister that found the back of the net.
 
“Obviously we didn’t like the end of the game (and) the way that we gave up a lead in the third period, particularly at home,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. 
 
Added senior defenseman Nolan De Jong: “I think even in the second (period), we were giving up too many Grade As. A lot of second and third chances within a four, five-foot radius around the net, so that’s something we have to improve on, something we addressed in the second period but something we didn’t do well enough in the third. 
 
“We’ve got to focus on taking the body a little more in front of the net instead of kinda fishing for pucks out there.”
 
The late scoring flurry from Union came after Michigan had kept the Dutchmen from the scoreboard for nearly two periods after a frenetic first period.
 
Michigan got off to a quick start, scoring two early goals despite spending little time in Union’s defensive zone. 
 
With just over ten minutes left in the first period, the Wolverines received their first power-play opportunity of the game and capitalized just eight seconds in. Finding the puck off a face-off, junior defenseman Sam Piazza fired a shot past Union goalkeeper Alex Sakellaropoulos into the top left corner of the goal to give Michigan a 1-0 advantage.
 
Three minutes later, the Wolverines scored again despite being on the opposite end of the power-play advantage. 
 
Michigan was down two men after junior forward Tony Calderone and sophomore defenseman Joseph Cecconi were sent off for holding and interference, respectively. But senior goalkeeper Zach Nagelvoort stopped several shots, and the puck found senior center Max Shuart’s stick just as Calderone left the box. 
 
Shuart fired a pass to Calderone, who found himself all alone on a breakaway and made the most of the opportunity, deking inside-out to put it past Sakellaropoulos and give his team a 2-0 lead. 
 
Though Michigan came out of its first penalty kill with a shorthanded goal, it would not be so fortunate the next time around — after senior forward Evan Allen was sent off for hooking, Union forward Spencer Foo cut the deficit to one with a power-play goal. 
 
Just over three minutes later, Michigan lost the lead when Foo buried the puck into the net for his second goal of the day to tie things at two apiece.
 
Will Lockwood, though, took little time in giving his team the lead once more. Just over 1:30 into the second period, the freshman forward finished a 2-on-1 opportunity, burying a wrister into the Union net. 
 
Lockwood’s goal was the only one of the period — the Wolverines cleaned up defensively while going the entire period without drawing a penalty, while the Dutchmen killed two Michigan power plays. 
 
But Union stifled the Michigan attack in the third period and the Wolverines emerged with the loss after surrendering the two late goals to Vecchione and Taylor. 
 
The Dutchmen’s two third period goals didn’t take away from what was a strong overall effort from Nagelvoort, who made 36 saves. 
 
“I thought (Nagelvoort) played well,” Berenson said. “He gave us a chance. When they had their chances, he was sharp. And then that power-play goal was kinda the turning point for their team, and maybe our team too.
 
“We took an unnecessary penalty, and sure enough, you have to pay for it. It was a huge goal. I mean, that ties the game up. I thought it was an unearned goal on their part and we shouldn’t have taken the penalty to even give them a power-play. So up until then I thought we were having a pretty good third period.”
 
Michigan will now look to even the series up Saturday night by tightening up its defense and limiting, as De Jong says, the “Grade A” chances opponents have.
 
“I think Zach gave us a chance to win, and that’s all we can ask for,” De Jong said. “Like I said, it’s only the first game so there’s a lot of improvement that has to be made. But I like the competitiveness of our defense and there’s things we’re going to have to improve on, but I think we have a solid base, we’re going to go over some video and we’ll be fine for tomorrow.”