Last season appears to be a distant memory for the Michigan hockey team. There were no slumping shoulders on the ice or in the post-game press conference. The all-freshmen line of Tyler Motte, J.T. Compher, and Evan Allen played with speed and tenacity. Freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort was a picture of calm in his crease, and junior Alex Guptill refused to let the moment get to him as he lined up for the game’s winning goal. No nerves, no jitters, and no doubts for this year’s team–just confidence.
Michigan was the aggressor from the outset, skating hard, passing with clarity, and dominating play in the offensive zone.
U-M’s power play, which coming into the game had clicked at a thirty-three-percent efficiency, was held in check in the first period, going 0-3.
Michigan head coach Red Berenson reassured his team to keep their heads up and stay focused despite BU goaltender Matt O’Connor’s strong play.
“I told the team, ‘Don’t be discouraged if you’re going up against a good goalie.’ O’Connor played really well tonight, and he gave his team a chance on the road.”
The Terriers withstood the Wolverines’ barrage of shots, but managed to score the game’s first goal to go up 1-0 at 18:25. Robbie Baillargeon uncorked a blistering shot into the upper left corner of the net past Michigan freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort. BU was being outshot after one, 14-6, but they led where it counted, 1-0.
The all-freshmen line of Motte, Compher, and Allen was stellar for the Maize and Blue in the second period, and combined for 13 shots-on-goal in the game. Motte banged a centering pass off the outside of the post, and Compher and Allen buzzed around the net all night.
Michigan limited any dangerous activity around Nagelvoort, and at the close of the second, they held a dominating shot advantage of 30-12. U-M was clearly the better team, but they still trailed, 1-0. Last year’s team may have folded, but this is a new season, and a determined bunch of Wolverines.
Michigan finally found the equalizer at 7:16 of the third on the power play.
Senior captain Mac Bennett looked off BU’s defenders, and sent a pass directly to Motte’s stick. Stationed along the lower right faceoff circle, the freshman unloaded a shot into a wide open net to extend his goal streak to four. This was finally a shot that O’Connor couldn’t get to. Yost was in a frenzy, but the play showcased pure calm from Bennett and Motte.
Motte was effusive in his praise for his captain.
“Unbelievable pass. It goes through sticks, through skates, and lands right on my stick,” he said. “He’s been making those passes for years, you have to be ready for those.”
Michigan delivered the kill shot to the Terriers just moments later at 8:46.
Junior left wing Alex Guptill skated in alone on a breakaway, but was hooked on his arm. The decibal level inside Yost rose as a penalty shot was awarded, and the pressure was squarely on Guptill. But this wasn’t last year’s team. The gravity of the moment would not faze him. He took the shot and scored five-hole, cleanly beating O’Connor to give U-M the 2-1 lead for good. Guptill had played against O’Connor before, and that insight proved crucial.
“The penalty shot felt nerve-wracking. To be honest, my heart was racing. I played against him back in the day in the Ontario leagues. He’s a big guy, I decided on the five-hole, went forehand, and just got rid of the shot quick.”
Michigan’s mentality is vastly different from where it was a season ago. There is confidence. But most of all, there is leadership. As one of those leaders, Guptill sees it firsthand.
“I think it just shows the maturity level of this group. We were down 1-0, but the freshmen stuck with it. It shows the leadership on this team. We find the tying goal, and all the momentum. It was a great comeback.”