Heads turn when Josh Zawada has the ball on his stick.
This game was no exception, as the junior attacker and reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week exploded for 10 points on five goals and five assists, propelling Michigan (2-0 overall) to a decisive 21-5 victory over Detroit Mercy (0-2), one that was never in doubt.
“Josh has been our most dynamic guy for a few years now,” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “He has really stepped up in just demanding the ball and getting guys in the right spot and the right time. He’s putting the ball in the back of the net which is great to see.”
Led by Zawada and a potent offense, the Wolverines reached their 2-0 start since Conry’s inaugural season in 2018. Tying his own program record, which he set last week, Zawada’s offensive impact came early and often.
The Wolverines jumped out to a rapid 4-0 lead in the first period, overwhelming a Titans defense that simply looked outpaced. Detroit Mercy’s defensive scheme attempted to compensate skill level with aggression, looking to upset Michigan with gritty, physical defensive play. Any hopes of this translating into the scoresheet never materialized.
Michigan overpowered the Titans, operating a run-and-gun offense that emphasized the talent of the Wolverine squad over any specific set pieces. Yet, in the midst of the organized onslaught, Zawada rose above it all.
Zawada lived behind the net all afternoon and led Michigan with his unmatched speed and agility, cutting and deking his way past a dizzied Detroit Mercy defense.
“I just let the game come to me,” Zawada said grinning. “I don’t worry about the stats and everything. If our team is winning, I’m happy.”
And winning seemed all but guaranteed, as the Titans failed to step to the beat and potential rallies were quickly snuffed out. Detroit Mercy’s lone two goals in the first half were drowned out by a cascade of Wolverine goals, as Michigan ended the first two periods with an 11-2 lead.
As the second half started, the Wolverines kept up the pressure, transitioning from a free-flowing offense to a gameplan-oriented approach. Michigan operated its offense from behind the opposing goal, running through Zawada as a field general and scoring another four goals to bring it to 15-2 before the Titans could muster a response. Zawada logged two goals and an assist, running circles around the defense. Unlike past years, Zawada’s dominant presence has played a more significant role in the team’s success.
“It helps when you’re baptized by fire,” Conry said. “When you play a schedule like we played last year, you go through some serious growing pains. Like we had in the first five games of the season, but that last five clip and then making the Big Ten tournament really helped our confidence.”
Although Big Ten play has not yet begun, the Wolverines’ 43 goals are the best through two games in program history — by a whopping 13 goals. With Zawada at the helm, Michigan’s offense has found a confidence that could carry it to newfound success.
“It starts in practice,” Zawada said. “We joke around with each other all the time. We have a little play we run called Business and we just have that kind of chemistry through that.”
And for Zawada and Michigan’s piping hot offense, business is booming.