A relentless penalty kill is a mark of a dominant hockey team. And following the graduation of most the unit’s anchors last season, Michigan coach Red Berenson might not have expected to see Michigan’s shorthanded brilliance Monday — especially not this early in the season.

Not only did the Wolverines keep opening-night opponent Niagara off the board, but they even scored shorthanded during the 5-0 win.

Berenson was quick to point out the importance of maintaining an attack when down a man, just as freshman forward Travis Lynch did when he gave Michigan a 2-0 lead. His lamplighter just nine minutes into the game came just seconds after a Wolverine penalty for too many men on the ice.

Berenson highlighted the importance of hands-on experience when down a skater.

“That gives everybody a lift,” Berenson said of shorthanded goals like Lynch’s. “One way to work on (the penalty kill) is during the games.”

Even without sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill — who’s currently serving a 12-game suspension — the penalty kill unit has the potential to win the Wolverines games this season on its own merits.

To manage the penalty kill, an aspect of the game that’s particularly unforgiving to underclassmen, Berenson will look to his leaders.

“Some guys, I don’t know if they’re ready for that, so we can’t use everyone,” Berenson said. “I need (senior forwards) Luke Glendening and David Wohlberg to lead it.”

The Purple Eagles were silent when holding a man advantage Monday night. They were 0-for-6 on the power play against last season’s national runners-up.

And though Michigan could afford itself a few shortcomings against Niagara — a team that hasn’t defeated Michigan in six tries — CCHA play will be less forgiving.

In the meantime, Berenson prefers to focus on forwards he’ll need to rely on while killing penalties.

“We’ve got a shorter group of guys that we’re using now,” Berenson said. “It’s players like (junior forward) Kevin Lynch, Travis Lynch and (sophomore forward) Derek DeBlois — they’re the key players right now.”

Fifth-year senior netminder Shawn Hunwick also pointed out the opportunity for newcomers to step forward and make his life easier when he’s missing a critical defender.

“There’s a lot of roles to fill,” Hunwick said. “Most of our (penalty kill) guys from last year graduated. The team’s doing well so far.”

But decreasing opponent’s conversion rate on power plays from last year’s figure of 16 percent will be no easy task without graduated forward Carl Hagelin, whose presence on the unit will be sorely missed.

Berenson noted the importance of the not-so-secret key ingredient to any successful penalty kill.

“Your goalkeeper — he’s your best penalty killer,” Berenson said.

Hunwick will hope for improvement from the Wolverines’ eight shorthanded scores last season — a total that can easily be surpassed if fresh faces like Travis Lynch continue to take the initiative.

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