Throughout all the ups and downs in the second half of the Michigan hockey team”s season, there has been one consistency the penalty kill.
After shutting down nine Nebraska-Omaha powerplays this weekend, Michigan extended its killed penalties streak to 55 over the past 11 games. Michigan has not given up a powerplay goal since the second period against North Dakota in the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 28.
The stretch has raised Michigan”s national standing to second best with an 89.2-percent efficiency. The Wolverines have stopped 140 out of 157 powerplays.
Michigan State is the only team with a better penalty-killing efficiency (90.8-percent).
While Michigan has not kept track of historical penalty killing statistics a spokesperson for the team is sure that this current streak is the “closest thing to a record that they have ever had.”
One of the biggest reasons for Michigan”s success has been its ability to challenge players at the point and to block passing lanes. This goes hand-in-hand with the players self-sacrifice. They have risked injury and pain while dropping to the ice to block a shot.
All of this has the Wolverines limiting their opponents” shots on the powerplay. During the four Nebraska-Omaha powerplays on Saturday, Michigan allowed just two shots on goal. The Wolverines surrender fewer than 1.1 shots on goal per penalty kill.
“It seems when hockey players have their backs to the wall and they are down a man, they work harder,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
Two of the biggest contributors on the penalty kill have been juniors Mark Mink and J.J. Swistak. Though they both play on the fourth line and don”t receive much even-strength time, both are keys for Michigan when playing a man down.
Swistak, one of the hardest workers on the team, made a spectacular play in Friday night”s game to set up Dwight Helminen”s game-tying goal in the second period.
After being on the ice for more than a minute and a half of the penalty kill, Swistak went down to block a Greg Zanon shot from the point. As Zanon struggled to corral the rebound, Swistak dove headfirst at Zanon”s feet to poke-check the puck out of the zone.
Swistak then followed the play up ice, forcing Zanon to retreat further into the defensive zone. Swistak forced a turnover and made a perfect feed to Helminen who had just come off the bench.
“Swistak made a great effort, just second-effort hockey, and that”s what we are asking from our team (on the penalty kill),” Berenson said. “He made that play happen just with his effort.”
The goal was Michigan”s ninth shorthanded score of the season and its fifth since its penalty-killing streak began. The Wolverines are currently third in the nation in short-handed goals and are 8-0-0 when they score a goal with a man down.