Michigan junior attackman Josh Zawada is two points shy of 100 combined goals and assists in his Wolverine career; Michigan’s offense is off to its best start in program history. Three Wolverine attackers had a hat-trick or better in this past Saturday’s 20-goal dismantling of Holy Cross. And head coach Kevin Conry has his first 3-0 start in his five-year tenure.
But don’t sleep on sophomore goalie Shane Carr and Michigan’s defense.
While the stat sheet might be littered with goals, assists and shots, Michigan quietly put together a defensive clinic on Saturday, allowing only three goals — an all-time program record.
Anchored by Carr, the Wolverines’ collapse-style defense has suffocated opponents, limiting shots on goal and stymying quality chances.
“I know it’s not an unbelievable number here with just eight saves,” Conry said. “But what he has been doing is just getting comfortable. There were a couple of these low angle shots that he was able to steal and our guys are playing a lot more comfortably in front of him.”
While eight saves may be the tale of the scoreboard, it certainly isn’t the tale of the tape. The Crusaders attempted a solid 30 shots against Michigan, but only 11 found the target. Across their first three games, the Wolverines have let up an average of just 15 shots on goal per game, leaving opposing offenses little opportunity to capitalize.
“We’re obviously trying to get them to force bad shots,” senior defenseman Andrew Darby said. “We force teams to go dodge down the alley. We realize when guys are getting to their strong hands so we know when to slide and stuff. We’re definitely trying to force bad shots and make it easy on Shane.”
And even when shots find Carr, they rarely make it past.
Though they have yet to enter Big Ten play, the Wolverines only cede an average of seven goals per game, tying them with Navy for best in the nation.
“We have a lot of trust in him,” Darby said. “He’s been playing really well lately and in practice too. He’s been playing awesome, so it’s really good to see him playing so well.”
Thanks, in part, to excellent defensive help, Carr boasts the ninth-best save percentage in the NCAA — the only underclassman in the top ten.
A top recruit, Carr has seen this level of success before. He was a four-star recruit coming out of the elite Severna Park High School program where he won four consecutive state championships and was a perfect 47-0 in his career; his team never fell below No. 15 in the nation.
His freshman year did not go the same way. As Michigan’s backup goaltender, Carr struggled in limited action, giving up 12 goals in 47 total minutes against two top 10 programs in Maryland and Rutgers.
Yet, a microcosm for the Wolverines as a whole, Carr has been the embodiment of resiliency.
“Shane’s a player,” Conry said. “He’s growing up before our eyes.”
Even as the Michigan offense blazes past opponents, if the Wolverines want to reverse the losing narrative set during the 2021 Big Ten only season, their success begins with a defensive foundation.
A foundation laid by one Shane Carr.