ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A line with a scary dog has Michigan off to a great start in the CCHA.
The Wolverines’ line of sophomores David Moss and Michael Woodford plus “the pit bull,” freshman Brandon Kaleniecki, has surprised with its offensive outburst.
Moss scored two goals and Woodford had two assists to lead the Wolverines to a 6-2 victory over Alaska-Fairbanks Saturday and a sweep of the season series.
For a team that lost its two best scorers — Mike Cammalleri to the pros and senior John Shouneyia to a wrist injury — Michigan (5-1-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) hasn’t been hurting on the offensive end.
The Moss-Woodford-Kaleniecki line had 10 points on the weekend. Through six games, Moss is the unlikely team leader in points with nine (three goals, six assists). Moss had 13 points in 44 games last season. Woodford is tied for second with seven.
Kaleniecki, whom teammates nicknamed after the often-ravenous dog, is second in goal scoring with four.
Why pit bull?
“He’s a little stocky guy who puts his stick down in front of the net,” Moss said.
“I call him the garbage man,” sophomore Eric Nystrom said. “He cleans up all the mess.”
Garbage was rewarded Saturday when coach Red Berenson moved the Moss-Woodford-Kaleniecki line from third to second. The line’s forechecking ferociousness was the catalyst for at least three goals, including one shorthanded.
“I had to check out there to see if there were six guys on the ice,” UAF coach Guy Gadowsky said. “They are the fastest forechecking team I’ve seen.”
Michigan’s first line isn’t too shabby either. Jeff Tambellini scored his team-leading sixth goal Saturday night and Dwight Helminen had a goal and an assist for a four-point weekend. The Wolverines now have won five straight CCHA series dating back to last season.
Meanwhile, Alaska-Fairbanks (1-4-1, 0-3-1) is left reeling from another disappointing weekend.
One of the main reasons is its power play, which came in 1-for-23 (4.5 percent). In the third period, Russell Spence scored with the man advantage to cut Michigan’s lead to 3-2. But two minutes later, Moss and Helminen scored back-to-back goals in 36 seconds to put the game away.
“It’s something to build on,” Gadowsky said of the power-play goal.
UAF may have to play without goaltender Lance Mayes, who injured his ankle Friday night. Gadowsky said the injury isn’t too serious but he “may miss some time.” Preston McKay had 28 saves in relief on Saturday.
Michigan’s 17-year-old freshman goaltender Al Montoya stopped 22 of 24 shots. He allowed four goals on the weekend
“As I told you at the start, I wasn’t worried about our goaltending and Al hasn’t given me any reason to worry,” Berenson said. “I liked his presence, he handles the puck well, he makes some big saves. He’s got the team’s confidence and that’s the most important thing.”