Michigan senior forward Luke Glendening shrugged in disbelief after casually flicking the puck into the net during a 10-3 win against St. Lawrence on Thursday.
The goal was his third of the game — his first hat trick as a Wolverine.
And it looked so effortless.
There was the goal in the first period that sparked the No. 1 Michigan hockey team’s 10-goal performance — a put-back off a rebound from a shot by senior forward David Wohlberg. Simple.
Then there was the feed by Wohlberg in the second that left half the goal open for Glendening. Easy.
Later in the second, the shrug-inducing goal came off another rebound from a shot by (you guessed it) Wohlberg.
And all Glendening could do was smile like he stole something.
Of course, it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Michigan coach Red Berenson said that Glendening is one of the best on the team at scoring from close range. That often comes with a price.
“It can be brutal hockey when you get into those areas,” Berenson said. “Are you willing to pay the price to go for a loose puck or would you rather stay in the comfort zone? I think our team’s doing a good job of going to the net and paying the price to score.”
That opportunism has gone a long way for the Wolverines’ offense. Offensive production was the team’s big question mark entering the season.
That question mark has been an exclamation point through the first four games, largely thanks to goals like Glendening’s. Michigan is averaging six goals per game, good enough for the second-highest average in the nation.
Berenson said the Wolverines take their cues from Glendening, and that means dealing with some pain to get the goal.
“He is our best back-checker, our hardest fore-checker and most physical player and our hardest worker,” Berenson said last Thursday. “When your captain is playing like that, then your team cannot be far behind.”
Putting up six goals per game against teams like Niagara and St. Lawrence far from guarantees success in the CCHA, though. After all, can Michigan continue to rely heavily on opportunistic goals?
Berenson said the game against St. Lawrence was much closer than the lopsided score indicated. The difference was that the Wolverines’ shots found the net.
CCHA goalies aren’t likely to allow goals like Glendening’s third, when the rebound came off a shot from behind the net as Wohlberg tried to ricochet the puck off the goalie. A CCHA goalie wouldn’t have let the puck squirt free.
And Michigan probably won’t have another opportunity to score three goals against three different goalies — as it did against St. Lawrence — for many years.
“There’s some luck involved,” Berenson said. “You take those point shots and sometimes they go in, and sometimes they never go in.”
Still, goals off rebounds and gritty play near the crease are a large part of the game. Fearlessness in the crease can make a good team great.
And it’s something that can’t really be coached.
“I think it’s just a desire to be there,” Glendening said. “It’s not always the most enjoyable place to be.”