ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After failing to earn a point in Michigan’s first three games, freshman Andrew Cogliano needed something to change his fortunes Sunday against Merrimack.
“I got a new stick. I told my parents, from Toronto, to bring down my last year’s stick,” Cogliano said. “All the guys in the room have been giving me grief for bringing that down, saying it wasn’t going to do anything.”
But it made all the difference. Cogliano was a huge part of the Wolverines’ offensive explosion, scoring his first career goal and a total of four points en route to a 9-2 victory over the Warriors. Kevin Porter netted his first career hat trick and T.J. Hensick contributed four points to the effort. It’s the first time since 1999-2000 that Michigan has started the season 4-0-0.
Merrimack couldn’t stop Michigan’s offense in the first, with the Wolverines pounding the Warriors with seven goals. Hensick began the onslaught at 4:41 on the power play. Zaz MacVoy stole the puck from a Merrimack defender behind the net, and feathered a pass to Hensick out front. Hensick slapped the puck past goalie Jim Healey for the easy score.
Healey caught an unfortunate break on Michigan’s second tally. He cleared the puck around the right boards, but it bounced off his defenseman and right to Porter. Porter skated into the low slot and snapped a shot between Healey’s left skate and the post, 2-0.
Cogliano got Michigan’s third goal at 11:05, converting a point shot through traffic that dipped inside the right post on the power play. Andrew Ebbett upped the lead to 4-0 just 51 seconds later on a second effort. While being hounded from behind, Ebbett took a shot that Healey stopped with the left pad, but Ebbett knocked home the rebound for his second goal of the season.
Cogliano’s lucky stick came in handy again at 12:43. Cogliano walked in from the left faceoff circle and ripped a shot over the left shoulder of Healey.
“He could have had a couple every game he’s played and it just hasn’t gone in,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “I asked him if the nets were the same size in Toronto as the ones we’re using here. I don’t know if he thought they were or not, but he found out tonight they were.”
The goal chased Healey from the net after allowing five goals on nine shots. But replacement Frank McLaughlin wouldn’t fare any better, giving up two more to the Wolverines before the period’s end.
Porter grabbed his second when he one-timed Hensick’s pass by McLaughlin at 14:06. Three minutes later, Porter capped the hat trick. Jack Johnson skated tight into the slot, sending a pass to Porter streaking in to the right side of the net. Porter batted the puck past McLaughlin for Michigan’s seventh goal of the night.
The hole was too much to overcome for Merrimack, which was greeted with chants of “warm up the bus” from the Yost crowd at the end of the first period.
But a combination of a first period letdown from the Wolverines and better play from the Warriors kept the last two periods tight, with both teams adding a pair of goals.
Another of Michigan’s 11 freshmen, Tyler Swystun, scored his first career goal at 7:54 of the second on a bang-bang play, extending Michigan’s lead to 8-1.
The Warriors finally broke Michigan goaltender Noah Ruden’s shutout bid with 35.7 seconds to go in the second period, when John Goebel sneaked a shot between the right post and Ruden’s left skate. Hank Carisio added another for Merrimack at 7:37 of the third. Ryan Sullivan whiffed on the point shot, but Carisio found the puck and banged it past Ruden.
“I thought our guys persevered,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “After a [first] period like that, all you can really do is make it a two game, period-by-period effort. And we played an NCAA tournament team 2-2 in the last two periods. The shots were even, we stayed out of the box a little bit better, and then we can play with anyone — because that’s as good of a team as we’re going to play all year.”
MacVoy added his first career goal midway through the third on a pretty play. Standing in front with his back to the goal, MacVoy backhanded the puck between his legs and by goalie Patrick Watson.
It was Ruden’s first start of the season, after freshman Billy Sauer started Michigan’s first three games. Ruden stopped 25 of 27 shots. Mike Mayhew also saw 10 minutes of action in the third, stopping three shots.
Merrimack’s loss came on the heels of a 3-2 win over Bowling Green on Friday, which snapped a 14-game losing streak.
“I just think sometimes handling success is sometimes harder than handling failure,” Dennehy said. “We really had a gutsy performance on Friday night. I think too many of our guys got too high with the highs, and we weren’t ready and prepared for that first period tonight.”