Entering this season, many people questioned the Michigan hockey team”s scoring capabilities.
Yesterday afternoon, this year”s class of freshmen forwards did everything they could to show that they can and will carry the offense.
When the Zambonis came out for the final time, the Wolverines had put an old-fashioned 9-0 thumping on the Golden Gaels from Queens University in Canada, who lost to Michigan State 14-2 the night before.
Michigan outshot its first opponent of the season 66-10. Although the game was an exhibition, it allowed the inexperienced Wolverines to gain some much-needed confidence before Saturday”s “Cold War” game.
“I think (yesterday”s game) gave some of our younger players and our team some confidence in one another in a legitimate game,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We scored a few goals, we got some shots through. (Michigan) State will be a much tougher team, but we moved the puck well and did some good things.”
Freshman forward Eric Nystrom scored a hat trick to lead a strong performance by the freshmen. All three goals came during a five minute stretch during the second and third periods.
“The pucks just came out with the open net there,” Nystrom said. “They come in waves, so I hope they keep coming.”
Nystrom”s current freshman linemate and former teammate on the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team, forward Dwight Helminen, tallied two goals and two more assists of his own. In all, the new faces accounted for 15 points yesterday.
“I liked all of (the freshmen),” Berenson said. “Nystrom obviously had a strong game on the score-sheet and he competed well all night. These guys are all pretty good players. It”s nice to see them get off to a good start.”
Playing against another team gave the Wolverines a chance to see a more physical type of play than they usually find in practice.
That physical play also gave Michigan plenty of opportunities to work on its special teams.
The Wolverines tallied four power-play goals on 10 attempts and held the Golden Gaels scoreless on the penalty kill.
The offense got started when senior defenseman Jay Vancik scored a rare goal.
“I don”t think I”ve even tried a backhand in three years,” Vancik said. “I didn”t even realize that it went in.”
Vancik also stopped the best scoring opportunity that Queens had. Scott Griffin had a breakaway in the second period, but was overtaken by Vancik before he could put a shot on goal.
Vancik had been suffering from a partially separated shoulder, but it appears to have healed.
Michigan”s Mike Komisarek, Craig Murray, and Milan Gajic also scored.
Friday night the Wolverines hosted their annual Blue-White intrasquad game. The White team prevailed 2-1 in a sloppy game.
“You need to play in a game environment like that,” said Berenson, who watched the game from the press box. “I think the players will be better off for it.”
Junior forwards J.J. Swistak and John Shouneyia scored goals and goaltender Kevin O”Malley stopped 24 of 25 shots to secure the White victory.
Nations Unite: After yesterday”s game, Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer and Queens alternate captain Mike Tedesco carried an American flag together, as a procession of both teams followed them around the ice.
“That was a very good gesture,” Berenson said. “It”s too bad more people weren”t there to see it.”
Battle sores: Four Michigan forwards watched the game against Queens from the stands while they nursed a variety of injures Mike Cammalleri (hip flexor), Mark Mink (broken hand), Dave Wyzgowski (enlarged spleen) and Joe Kautz (groin pull).
Welcome aboard: Berenson announced that Michigan will keep two walk-ons on its roster. Justin Spurlock, a goalie who played on the club team last year, and forward Charlie Henderson, a freshman who played last year in the North American Hockey League, will both join the Wolverines this season.