ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s home opener had something old and something new.
The something old was the school’s students showing up late.
The something new was freshman Jeff Tambellini’s excellence.
The student section almost missed out on their new star, as Tambellini scored the first two goals in Michigan’s 4-1 victory over Merrimack.
With the victory, the Wolverines extended their home-unbeaten streak on opening night to 13-0-2 in the last 15 years.
“Playing at Yost was everything I imaged it would be and the atmosphere is something special,” said Tambellini, who scored his team-leading third and fourth goals of the season. “It really seemed like the crowd settled in nicely after the first goal.”
Tambellini, who hails from Port Moody, British Columbia, helped the Wolverines (2-1-0) settle in nicely with a power-play goal just 3:33 into the opening period.
Tambellini extended the Michigan lead 11 minutes later off a feed from Dwight Helminen and Eric Nystrom.
“We came ready to play in the first period,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson, whose team outshot Merrimack (0-1-1) 14-3 in the opening 20 minutes.
The Wolverines went up 3-0 with 3:26 remaining in the second period on Nystrom’s second goal of the season.
Following a goal by Merrimack’s Steve Crusco midway through the third period, Michigan’s Mike Roemensky finished off the scoring with 1:13 left on an empty-netter.
Although Merrimack is predicted to finish near the bottom of Hockey East by most, the preseason CCHA favorite Michigan did not want to overlook the Warriors.
Berenson, however, was a little disappointed with the Wolverines’ effort after the first period. Merrimack outshot them 20-13 the rest of the way.
“It seemed like we were playing on our heels,” he said.
Michigan made the win look easy despite playing without senior forward John Shouneyia and junior defenseman Andy Burnes, two of the team’s best players. Shouneyia is out with a broken wrist and Burnes was diagnosed with mono.
“Everybody has to step up without those guys in the lineup,” Nystrom said. “Those are some huge holes to fill.”
Michigan freshman goalie Al Montoya finished with 22 saves, and Merrimack goalie Joe Exter had 23 saves.
The Wolverines and Warriors finish off their series Saturday in Ann Arbor.