Alex Kile, Andrew Copp and Zach Hyman look like they’re keeping score.
After Hyman, a senior forward, scored the Wolverines’ first goal in a rout of Ohio State on Friday, Copp, the junior captain, notched two of his own. That moved them into a three-way tie for the team lead will seven tallies apiece. Then sophomore forward Kile added two goals in the second period Friday, upping his total to a team-leading nine goals. He now leads the nation in power-play goals scored with six.
It feels as though when one of the three finds twine, the others are bound to follow suit. Kile, Copp and Hyman also contributed goals in Michigan’s eight-goal outburst against Penn State on Nov. 22.
After a sluggish start, Copp has scored all of his seven goals in the Wolverines’ last nine games, including six over the seven-game homestand.
Meanwhile Hyman — who started off with a hot stick, contributing hat trick in Michigan’s first eight-goal performance — now leads the team with 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists). Kile and Hyman have combined with freshman Dylan Larkin for an impressive 47 points, making their line the most productive on the team.
The trio combined for five of the Michigan hockey team’s eight goals in the victory, distancing themselves from the rest of the Wolverines in scoring.
With three forwards on pace to put up big numbers this season — and four, if sophomore forward Tyler Motte continues his hot hand — a once-ailing offense could soon become consistently formidable.
FLIPPING THE SCRIPT: All of a sudden, it appears this team has righted the ship.
Michigan entered its longest homestand of the first half unranked, having been swept at Michigan Tech and having earned just two wins in its first seven games. It was a start that prompted Michigan coach Red Berenson to look at the season in seven-game segments, placing deserved pressure on the Wolverines’ second stretch.
Improve they did — the Wolverines made up ground in nearly every category, especially offense.
With two eight-goal outbursts in hand, Michigan is now second in the nation in offense, scoring more than four goals per game.
Meanwhile, the Wolverine power play scored more goals against Ohio State and RPI than it had in 12 games prior, going 4-for-5 on man-advantages Friday. At 11-for-55, the unit is now tied for 18th in the country.
Most importantly, Michigan improved to 8-6-0 on the season, having won six of seven games. The Wolverines capped the homestand with their two most complete wins, scoring 14 goals against their final two opponents.
THREE AND OUT: This time last year, the Wolverines had built up a reputation for late-game heroics, playing in six overtime contests in their first 15 games. And their only extra-frame loss came in an exhibition to the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program in December.
Fittingly, the Wolverines’ season ended in overtime — two extra frames, in fact — in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament against the Nittany Lions.
This season has been quite the opposite.
Save for close games at Boston University and against RPI at Yost Ice Arena, Michigan’s games have largely been decided before the closing minutes of regulation, whether that be an 8-3 win over Ohio State or a 5-1 loss to New Hampshire at home.
That’s not to say that Michigan won’t win games decided late or in the extra period. The Wolverines’ 3-2, comeback win over RPI showed that they can. But for a young team, overtime experience — a situation not easily simulated — will prove invaluable in resume-building games down the stretch.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY: As first reported by Sports Illustrated, Madison Square Garden in New York will host “Big Ten Day” in 2016 and 2017, featuring a double-header of hockey and men’s basketball. The first edition will be played Jan. 30, 2016 and will feature Michigan and Penn State in both sports.
The news comes following an announcement that the 2018 Big Ten men’s basketball tournament will be held at Madison Square Garden.
The Wolverines and Nittany Lions are building a rivalry on the ice, with Penn State winning three of five games last season and the two teams splitting their first series of this season in November. By 2016, that rivalry could be as enticing as the venue it will be played in.