It was only a matter of time before all three put one on the scoreboard together.

Entering Saturday night’s game against Northern Michigan, Michigan’s three freshmen forwards – Jeff Tambellini, Brandon Kaleniecki and Andrew Ebbett – had played relatively equal minutes this season, but had rarely been on the ice together at the same time.

The weekend’s second contest against the Wildcats changed all that when the three were skated on the same powerplay unit. The first time that the trio played together came on a checking-from-behind penalty by the Wildcats’ Mike Stutzel in the first period.

At the 13:05 mark of the opening stanza, Ebbett passed to Michigan defenseman Nick Martens, who shot from the blueline. The powerplay shot deflected off the chest of Northern Michigan goalie Craig Kowalski right to Kaleniecki, who put the puck over the left shoulder of Kowalski for the early 1-0 lead.

Kaleniecki, nicknamed “the Pit Bull” for his hard-nosed play near the net, found his way in front of Kowalski for four more shot attempts on the powerplay Saturday – two were saved by Kowalski, the others were knocked away by Northern Michigan defenders.

“I think (Kaleniecki) is a natural goal scorer, and the kid’s been snakebit a little bit lately,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “But he’s played hard, he’s played physical, he’s played well defensively and he’s just going to get better as time goes on. I can see him scoring a lot of goals at Michigan.”

The need for speed: With all the line changes this season due to injuries and early-season experimenting, Michigan may have found its fastest pairing in years with sophomore Dwight Helminen, senior Mark Mink and Tambellini.

Helminen has been known for his ability to breakaway for shorthanded goals and the freshman has been one of the quickest Wolverines in the offensive zone. Mink complements them both with his solid all-around play.

Since he started skating with Helminen and Mink, Tambellini’s production has increased, and that offensive surge includes the Wolverines’ first goal Friday night.

“On (our) line we have a lot of speed,” Tambellini said. “(On the goal) we all busted to the net, we got a good shot on net and we were lucky enough to get a rebound. And that’s the way our line works. We work off speed and we work off chances, kind of creating stuff off the rush, and hopefully that keeps carrying through.”

Killing Time: Michigan’s team speed was one reason why its penalty kill had been nearly unbeatable. But on Friday, speed wasn’t enough, as Northern Michigan ended the Wolverines’ streak of eight games without surrendering a powerplay goal. Stutzel beat Michigan’s Al Montoya in the second period while the Wildcats had the man-advantage. Northern Michigan followed that with another powerplay goal in the first period of Saturday’s game. Before the weekend, Bowling Green had been the last team to beat Michigan’s penalty kill. The Falcons earned a powerplay goal on Nov. 8, and since that time, Michigan had killed 44 straight penalties. The Wolverines’ penalty kill percentage dropped from .951 to .923 after the weekend, but they still lead the nation in that category.

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