Junior captain T.J. Hensick had just unleashed a shot on Toronto goalie Ryan Grinnell. The rebound went to freshman Andrew Cogliano behind the goal and, as he attempted a wrap-around shot, Toronto defender Anthony Pallotta dove across the crease to make up for the bad positioning of his goalkeeper, momentarily making him the hero for Toronto. But the puck deflected off his body and, luckily for the Wolverines, the puck bounced right to the feet of sophomore Kevin Porter, who then punched it in for the game-winning goal.

With that goal, the Michigan hockey team barely escaped with a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues at Yost Ice Arena on Sunday.

Although one would think that a close game against a team that last season lost to Lake Superior State 15-1 would be troubling, the Wolverines wanted to put a positive light on the game.

“I think it was a lot better for us to have a close game like this one,” Hensick said. “We didn’t want to have an 11-0 game like we’ve had in the past. The team develops bad habits in games like that. The little things we picked up from this game are definitely going to help us in the long run.”

Freshman goalie Billy Sauer, tabbed by Michigan coach Red Berenson as the starter going into the regular season, rebounded from giving up six goals in the annual Blue-White scrimmage on Saturday night by shutting out Toronto in his two periods of play. Although he faced just seven shots, Sauer made a couple of impressive saves including a stick save on a breakaway in the second period.

“I would have liked to see more shots,” Sauer said. “It’s tough to keep your head in the game in an atmosphere like Yost where there’s so much going on. It was a close game so I had to be there on every shot.”

While Toronto mustered 18 shots on goal, the Wolverines peppered Grinnell with shot after shot, accumulating 53 total. Grinnell made 50 saves, but it was the Wolverines’ own ineptitude that led to such a high amount of saves. Michigan was particularly bad on the power play, scoring once in ten tries.

“The goalie played tremendously for (Toronto), but we weren’t shooting to score,” Hensick said. “We didn’t get any shots from the point on the power play, and we need to create more opportunities for ourselves. We need to shoot more at the corners.”

Hensick was the star of the game, assisting on two goals and scoring the third. On his goal, Hensick received the puck at center ice and immediately lowered his head. He carried it to the right wing of Michigan’s offensive zone and shot across the ice to beat Grinnell on the stick side.

“(Hensick) is a game-breaker type player,” Berenson said. “He can beat you one on one. You never know when it’s going to happen. He led the league in scoring last year, so it’s no surprise.”

The game was surprisingly physical considering it was only an exhibition. There were 26 total penalties, 15 of which were on Toronto. At the end of the first period a near brawl broke out involving freshman phenoms Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano. Johnson got involved with several of the Toronto players in the Michigan offensive zone.

“Some of those (Toronto) players were trying to take liberties on our smaller more skilled forwards,” Johnson said. “I was just trying to make a point that you aren’t going to rough us up in our own building.”

Despite the victory, the Wolverines know they have much to work on before beginning regular season play.

“Obviously our special teams need to improve,” Berenson said. “We also need to do some tinkering with our line combinations and our power play combinations.”

With the exhibition season behind them, the Michigan hockey team opens the regular season at Yost against Quinnipiac on Friday night.

 

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