The No. 6/7 Michigan Wolverines are 2-0 following a weekend sweep over the Lindenwood Lions at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. The weekend got off to an inauspicious start, but the Wolverines were able to quickly quell any hope of an upset.
On Friday night, 15 different Wolverines found the score sheet, but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. From the puck drop, Michigan looked very rusty and the lack of chemistry was — albeit expected — undeniable. The Wolverines could not capitalize on power plays and interim head coach Brandon Naurato’s approach of “quality over quantity” shots seemed ineffective.
When the Lions went up 1-0 following a missed coverage with just over seven minutes remaining in the first period, no one batted an eye. But when the Lions went up 2-0 just less than two minutes later following an inexcusable turnover in front of Michigan goalie Erik Portillo, you could feel the air being sucked out of the arena.
Fortunately, just before the end of the first period, freshman Jackson Hallum lit the lamp to cut it to 2-1. Following what had to be a “passionate” speech between periods from Naurato, the Wolverines came out blazing in the second period.
Michigan scored five goals in just over eight minutes of the period. Mackie Samoskevich scored the first two, Nick Granowicz and Jay Keranen scored the next two, and Mark Estapa’s filthy wrister capped off the Wolverines’ barrage in the second period.
Michigan would coast the rest of the game to a 7-4 victory.
In the second game, it was Lindenwood again opening the scoring following a miscue defensively from the Wolverines. However, that was the last goal the Lions would score on the weekend.
Dylan Duke responded two minutes later for the Wolverines, followed by Adam Fantilli’s short-side snipe on the power play in the second period to give Michigan the lead for good. Seamus Casey would fire home a glove-side wrister in the third to cap a 3-1 victory.
Overall for the weekend, Michigan proved it can score in bunches across several different lineups. Ten Wolverines scored and none of them were preseason All-American Luke Hughes. Furthermore, Michigan was without key newcomer Frankie Nazar for the opening weekend who is expected to be one of the team’s top contributors this season.
However, concerns persist on the blue line. Last year, the Wolverines missed several coverages due to their aggressive style, but their sins were absolved due to the play of Owen Power and team captain Nick Blankenburg. This year, Jacob Truscott will be tasked with most of those defensive responsibilities until a second true blue line defender emerges.
In net, despite the average numbers, Portillo picked up right where he left off last year. The Swede stopped 28-of-33 shots during the two games. Four of the five allowed goals came on breakaways or odd-man rushes, and the fifth allowed came on a power play.
A few quick hitters from the opening weekend:
- Freshman center Adam Fantilli is a 17-year-old superstar in the middle of Michigan’s top line. The combination of he and Samoskevich — my pick to lead the team in goals — will prove to be lethal.
- Freshman defenseman Seamus Casey is an offensive force who is already improving defensively solely thanks to his outstanding effort on both ends.
- Freshman Rutger McGroarty might be my favorite player on the team. A team-first player who will do anything he can to contribute, including an earth-shattering open-ice hit to kick things off in the second game.
- The blue line is the biggest weakness for this team. If the Wolverines want to play this aggressive, they have to remained disciplined or else they will set up Portillo and the team for failure.
- Last year’s power play was special but once this year’s team finds it’s most potent five and they get some shifts together, they could grow into a mirror image of their predecessor before the end of the year.
Next up, the No. 9/12 Boston University Terriers for a two-game series in Ann Arbor. The first game begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, with the second game set for Sunday at 5 p.m. Both can be streamed on BTN+.