Five Things We Learned: Michigan Tech

Patrick Barron/Daily
Buy this photo

By Erin Lennon , Daily Sports Writer
Published November 4, 2013

1. Michigan has depth beyond the line chart.

In place of injured freshman defenseman Kevin Lohan — who will miss at least three months after suffering a lower-body injury Friday that will require surgery — junior Mike Chiasson made his season debut on a pairing with senior Kevin Clare.

The defense allowed just one goal in a 2-1 victory, going 6-for-6 on the penalty kill. And though there were no injuries on offense this weekend, two Wolverines notched points in their second starts of the season Saturday.

Sophomore forward Justin Selman netted what was ultimately the game-winning goal for Michigan in the third period Saturday. Freshman defenseman Michael Downing and junior forward Andrew Sinelli recorded the assist.

Sinelli’s sixth career assist came in his second appearance this season.

“He’s a junior now, and he’s a pretty good hockey player,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson on Saturday. “There’s some competition now between about six or seven guys to get in the lineup and stay in the lineup. But that’s good for our team.”

2. Nagelvoort has pipes between the pipes.

With an ability to play the puck as well as stop it, freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort acts as a sixth skater on the ice at all times. Nagelvoort’s performance in place of injured sophomore Steve Racine has kept the Wolverines out of the loss column on more than one occasion through five starts.

On Friday, Nagelvoort could be heard from the rafters in Yost Ice Arena, shouting “plenty of time” to calm a hasty power play and directing the defense in front of him.

“The defense did a really great job,” Nagelvoort said Saturday. “They let me see pretty much everything in front of me. There were only really two or three chances where they had any opportunities for shots; they just played really well tonight.”

Nagelvoort has a reason to be calm. The freshman is now 4-1-1 on the season and has survived three overtime games without allowing the game-winning goal. He boasts a .948 save percentage — the second-best percentage in the nation — and hasn’t given up more than a pair of goals in any start.

3. The power play lacks muscle.

Sophomore forward Andrew Copp’s first-period goal on Saturday against the Huskies was the first power-play goal since Oct. 18 against New Hampshire, and the only one scored in five such opportunities during the game.

Though Michigan’s power play is 8-for-32 this season, it is arguably the Wolverines’ weakest unit thus far. The power play scored two goals in the season opener against No. 8 Boston College but has been held to one or fewer since.

Still, drawing penalties will eventually lead to goals, right?

“(Power plays) help us to get out offensively and get in an early rhythm,” Copp said. “It definitely helps to get shots on net.”

But eventually, luck aside, the Wolverines will struggle to win games decided by one goal. It will be the power play’s responsibility to find the back of the net, especially against a team like Michigan Tech.

4. But the penalty kill is killer.

Before the season, senior defenseman Mac Bennett said that the defense — which had been pegged as Michigan’s biggest question mark following the departure of former blue liners Jon Merrill and Jacob Trouba — would surprise a lot of people.

A defense that boasted three starting freshmen has allowed more than two goals in a game only once this season — in a 7-4 victory over Rochester Institute of Technology. Michigan gives up an average of 1.47 goal per game, which is important considering the Wolverines have scored three or more goals just twice this season.

On Friday, Michigan took its first five-on-three penalty kill of the season when junior defenseman Brennan Serville was called for boarding. The penalty kill fended off Michigan Tech for 4:42 of the five-minute disadvantage before surrendering its fifth goal of the season.

Without Lohan on Saturday, the Wolverines killed 12 minutes worth of penalties without surrendering a goal.

“I thought the defense played really well,” Nagelvoort said Saturday. “Obviously, it’s never good to be missing a guy like Lohan. We’re disappointed he’s hurt, and we’re hoping to get him back as quick as possible, but the defense did a really great job.”

5. Bold Prediction: Nagelvoort is Michigan’s new No. 1.

After missing a weekend against Boston University and UMass-Lowell, Racine practiced in full pads in the week leading up to Michigan Tech but was listed as a backup and didn’t see the ice in either game.

Berenson has said several times that, although Racine felt he could play if necessary, the sophomore is not yet 100 percent. With the bye week coming up and a hot-handed backup in Nagelvoort, what’s the rush?

But what Berenson is not saying is that Nagelvoort’s impressive play in five starts is a happy, but confusing surprise. Nagelvoort is better at playing the puck and allows fewer rebounds. He is bigger and more vocal.

With each win he notches while Racine is resting, especially at home, the freshman earns a bigger share of that starting job.

There is certainly potential for a two-goalie option for the remainder of the season, a happy problem to have. Still, don’t be surprised if it’s Nagelvoort minding the net in Omaha, Neb. next weekend.