His teammates gave him a hard time for his lack of a celebration, but Milan Gajic was too relieved to do any dancing.

After the sophomore forward took a pass from defenseman Eric Werner in the opening minutes of the third period of Friday night’s exhibition and fired a wrist shot into the top left corner of the net, he could barely crack a smile.

The goal, the first of two in the game for Gajic, helped the Wolverines to a runaway 8-2 win over the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team.

After recording nine goals in his freshman campaign, Gajic had yet to find the back of the net this season. In fact, he had just one point in the team’s first six games – an assist against North Dakota on Oct. 12. And even though Friday was just an exhibition, Michigan coach Red Berenson hopes that it will be something that Gajic can build on.

“You hope there are some players in that lockerroom that got some honest confidence from that game,” Berenson said. “It’s good for players like Gajic and it’s about time.”

Before arriving at Michigan, Gajic was an offensive machine. In the 2000-01 season, as a junior player in the British Columbia Hockey League, he set Burnaby Bulldogs records for goals, assists and points in a season (46-52-98). But so far this year, he has had trouble converting on his chances.

Early in Friday’s contest, it appeared Gajic’s frustrations might continue.

Just two minutes into the game, the sophomore mistimed his shot on a pass from the corner, and the puck went wide. Eight minutes later, Gajic was stopped on a 2-on-1 when the U.S. Under-18 team defender forced him into a low-angle shot.

But after his first goal in the third, the Burnaby, British Columbia native seemed to relax on the ice. According to Gajic, it was about time.

“It was always something that came so easily to me, and then I start off the year five or six games without getting a goal,” Gajic said. “I’ve been pressing a lot, holding my stick too tight.”

Not many of the Wolverines had trouble scoring on Friday.

Dwight Helminen opened the assault with a wrist shot from the point. The sophomore center took a behind-the-back pass from forward Eric Nystrom and found an opening to the right of U.S. Under-18 Team goalie Chris Holt to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.

Forward Brandon Kaleniecki added to the lead less than three minutes later thanks to his scrappy play in front of the net. Freshman defenseman Danny Richmond fired a shot wide left and the puck caromed all the way around to a well-positioned Kaleniecki just to the right of the post. Holt was unable to move across the crease quickly enough, and the freshman forward redirected it into the open net.

David Moss and Joe Kautz added goals in the second period to give Michigan a 4-0 lead. The Wolverines led 7-0 in the third before the U.S. Under-18 Team got on the board.

U.S. Under-18 Team defenseman Ryan Suter helped his team capitalize on a 5-on-3 advantage by assisting on two goals within a minute.

On the first score, forward Steve Mandes took a rebound from Suter’s shot from the point and roofed it over backup goalie Noah Ruden. Just 60 seconds later, forward Josh Sciba earned a tally on an eerily similar shot from Suter.

Despite the late flurry, Michigan held on for a comfortable 8-2 win.

“I think we realized that if you don’t play hard, it doesn’t matter who you play against,” Berenson said.

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