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Michigan hockey: First-half season recap

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The Wolverines are back in action later this week, but let’s take a look at what they delivered the first half.

Duel In The D: Michigan v Michigan State Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Michigan hockey concluded it’s first half of the season with a 14-6 record and currently sit No. 3 in the latest USCHO poll. The Wolverines ended the first half of Big Ten play splitting with Ohio State in Columbus, winning 5-2 and losing 6-1. Michigan sits in first place in the conference with 23 points, four ahead of Minnesota.

The two leading point getters at the break are no surprise — Kent Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets, Pick No. 5, 2021 NHL Draft) and Owen Power (Buffalo Sabres, No. 1, 2021) with 23 points each through 17 and 18 games, respectively. Brendan Brisson (Vegas Golden Knights, No. 29, 2020) and Matty Beniers (Seattle Kraken No. 12, 2021) are both tied for the team lead in goals with 11. Goaltender Erik Portillo (Buffalo, Round 3, No. 67 overall) has a .913 save percentage with 2.50 GAA, ranking fifth in both categories.

Let’s take a look at how the Wolverines made it to this point.

Offense is the name of the game

Michigan has had no issues putting the puck in the net. The Wolverines rank first in the Big Ten and the entire country in goals scored with 81. The next closest team in the conference is Penn State with 65.

Watching them the first half, it’s honestly safe to say in my time watching college hockey I have never seen a team more loaded with offensive talent than this one. With their ability to get goals in bunches, they have rarely been out of any game they have played.

It’s hasn’t just been the first round picks, as they have gotten scoring depth from a lot of others as well. They have nine players in double-digit points, and four players with more than 20. They score and get contributions from all four lines.

Penalty kill and D-Zone trouble

For as great as they have looked offensively, it can be tough at times in hockey to maintain that. The Wolverines sometimes are a victim of their own success offensively because of how dominant they are and how free-flowing they play. When they don’t get easy chances against tougher teams defensively, they have struggled some. Teams that try and press their defense hard on forechecking or finish hits on the top forwards have been able to slow them down at times.

They have also struggled with the penalty kill thanks to the high number of penalties the Wolverines have taken, the most of any in the Big Ten and the second-most in the nation. It doesn’t matter what level of hockey it is — if you take more then two penalties a game, odds are you will give up a goal that game.

Michigan has to play simple hockey all the time and let its natural talent take over while staying out of the box and not letting teams back into games.

First Half MVP: Owen Power

Was there ever a doubt? The second-year defenseman leads all players at his position group with 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) and is first among defenseman in the Big Ten. Power is also tied for 14th in the nation with a +13.

If you watch him night in and out, he controls the game with skating and puck poise. Power has been without a doubt the MVP through the first half of the year.