Michigan hockey battles Niagara
With the puck on his stick atop the right circle, second-year forward Kent Johnson hesitated for a second as Niagara goaltender Chad Veltri moved into the slot. Winding his stick for an instant shot, Johnson sent the puck to the upper right corner. A lead after two minutes of play seemed almost guaranteed.
But the official’s waving arms accompanied a hollow ping. Without any goal.
Three minutes later, second-year forward Brendan Brisson found himself in the same situation, chaining his unique top-of-the-circle scoring stopwatch. Once again, the sound of the message filled Yost Ice Arena. The hymn to the agony of a goalscorer.
âBrisson probably should have scored two or three (goals) in the first period alone,â said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “From our perspective, it looked like he had a lot of nets to shoot at, and he just couldn’t get in.”
Brisson’s struggles to bury the puck marked a bigger trend in Michigan’s No.4 offense. The Wolverines have won several Category A scoring threats, but few have reached the back of the net. In the end, they doubled down on their aggressive attack to secure the victory.
Michigan has been in the throes of bad luck with the puck for several weeks. After an offensive road attack against Penn State, the Wolverines struggled to complete their shots against Notre Dame. From wraparounds to one-timers, the almost guaranteed goals left them shaking their heads.
Dealing with Niagara didn’t change anything. Michigan put bodies in front of the net, passed the puck for the best shot available, and didn’t hesitate to shoot on goal. Over the course of two periods, the Wolverines were outscored 21-17, but racked up several high-risk scoring opportunities.
Michigan’s struggles to finish came from rotten bad luck. About seven minutes into the third period, rookie Luke Hughes tried to rip a catch on goal, but his stick snapped as he dug deep into his shot. While Bordeleau tried his own non-stopwatch three seconds later, his stick also broke and he threw it on the ice in frustration.
But those goals eventually came in the third period, as the Wolverines focused on generating shots. With an offense that flooded the scorecards of goals this season, Michigan ultimately defeated Niagara by relying on skill and strategy.
âYou must have a short memory,â Pearson said. ââ¦ You are going to go through some difficulties. It’s not going to go your way every shift or every game or every period, but you have to stick with it. “
Michigan stuck to their attacking game plan and ultimately came off with a comfortable victory. The Wolverines doubled their possession offense by moving the puck and chasing the rebounds, and eventually their bad luck wore off.
If Michigan wants to go after a Big Ten title or a playoff run, they need to figure out how to score when the puck isn’t bouncing. The Wolverines found a way to do it against Niagara.
âYou never really know what’s going to happen in a game, whether the puck will go your way or not,â said second-year forward Kent Johnson. âSo (we have to) keep playing the right way and trust the way we play. “