NHL exhibition games aren’t typically ratings monsters. Few people saw Montreal Canadiens forward and former Michigan Wolverine Max Pacioretty tally a shootout goal against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.
But a few Michigan hockey players watched their former teammate glide down the ice and beat Detroit goaltender Jimmie Howard with a nifty backhander.
Sophomore forward Carl Hagelin was among those who celebrated Pacioretty’s goal. It was a timely occasion for the Sodertalje, Sweden native to take notes. This season, Hagelin can expect to be thrown into a similar situation.
The CCHA officially re-introduced the shootout to college hockey this summer. If a conference game is tied after regulation and a five-minute overtime period, each team will send three skaters one-on-one versus the opposing goalie. Should the shootout remain tied once three shooters from each team have had their turn, the squads will select a different player, and each team’s skater will have a chance to score.
When a shootout occurs, both teams will get one point for a tie after overtime. The team that wins the shootout will receive an additional point, which will count only in the CCHA standings and have no bearing on NCAA Tournament seeding.
Michigan assistant coach Mel Pearson said the coaching staff isn’t close to a decision on which shooters they prefer, though choosing among a slew of candidates has been a hot-button topic of discussion this offseason. And some of the players are already campaigning for a chance.
“It’ll be interesting (who we choose)”, Pearson said. “I had (senior forward) Travis Turnbull come up to me today in practice and say ‘Coach, just wanted to let you know that in the USHL I scored seven of 11 shootouts.’ So we’ve got some players politicking.”
The decision to select players for the shootout will not be set in stone. Pearson said the participants could change each game, depending on the player’s current play. Pearson maintained that there is no clear-cut favorite, though at least two sophomores are likely high on the staff’s list of options.
Hagelin scored 11 goals last season, and fellow forward Aaron Palushaj notched 10. Both are renowned for their stick-handling and expressed their excitement about the new rule.
“I don’t know if the coaches like it too much, because obviously it’s not a fair way to win,” Palushaj said. “But I like it. It’s going to be interesting. We get to work on our moves a little more, put more emphasis on shootouts in practice, too.”
Pearson said the Michigan coaches were in favor of the shootout. Though he understands the arguments against it, he believes it’s in the best long-term interest of college hockey.
“I think some of the coaches were a little concerned that it could come down to one or two or three players making a difference in a team sport,” Pearson said. “I think you have to do what you can do to sell the sport, grow the sport and help get people excited.”
There have been 61 ties in the last three CCHA seasons, so whoever those three players are could have a huge impact on conference standings. Teams with dangerous open-ice skaters will have a great advantage if a game remains deadlocked through regulation and overtime.
Hagelin and Palushaj often take time after practice to fine-tune their attacks. If they end up in shootouts, both have some possible signature moves in store for the occasion.
“I used to play outdoor hockey with my friend, in-line hockey,” Hagelin said. “And I usually have this particular move that I use, and I use it on the ice, too. So if I take a shoot-out, I’ll use that one.”
Palushaj’s approach will be much less calculated.
“I have a couple (moves) lined up when we get to that,” he said. “I’ll pull them off the top of my head when I get to the red line if we’re in a shootout.”