Hayden Lavigne had waited for this moment for a long time, and he made sure to make the most of it.
Making his first start Saturday for the Michigan hockey team three years after he signed to join the program, Lavigne couldn’t have written a better beginning to his career in maize and blue. The true freshman stopped all 31 pucks sent his way, backstopping the No. 11 Wolverines to a 4-0 victory over Union in front of 5,087 in Yost Ice Arena.
Given the road Lavigne has traveled to end up in Ann Arbor, it was no surprise to see he was all smiles after the game.
“It’s unbelievable,” the Brampton, Ontario, native said. “I’ve been through kind of a rough road getting here, but now that I’m here and settled in, I’m excited to be here. That felt great as a first game, but it’s only one so there’s a lot more to do.”
Lavigne first committed to Michigan while playing junior hockey in his native Ontario, making his pledge official when he signed a national letter of intent to join the program in November 2013.
He struggled to find a home, though, upon moving to the USHL in the fall of 2013, bouncing from Tri-City to Waterloo to Bloomington. The final stop proved to be the right one, as Lavigne settled in and posted a 26-9-2 record a season ago.
Upon arriving at Michigan, the netminder entered a crowded goaltending competition. Senior Zach Nagelvoort, sophomore Chad Catt, and fellow freshman Jack LaFontaine also are on the roster, and Nagelvoort got the start in Michigan’s 4-3 loss to the Dutchmen in the season opener Friday.
Coach Red Berenson chose to go with Lavigne in the series capper Saturday and was impressed by what he saw in the freshman’s debut.
“I thought Hayden was really good,” Berenson said. “The thing I like about him is he was composed. He didn’t have to overreact, he didn’t have to make second effort or outstanding saves. He was in position all night. He made it look easy. Good for him.
“He’s had three tough years of trying to prepare himself for Michigan and this moment, and he showed tonight that he was ready.”
Lavigne admitted to some nerves in the early going, and it was clear he took a few minutes to settle in as he battled the puck some and dropped a rebound or two.
However, by the middle of the first period, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder was squaring up to shooters, directing rebounds out of harm’s way and using his size to fill up the net. His biggest save came midway through the second with the Wolverines up 2-0 but on the penalty kill. Union’s Michael Pontarelli ended up alone in the low left circle, but Lavigne got a piece of the shot with his glove.
“I was a little nervous at first, obviously, and it showed in my rebound control,” Lavigne said. “But as the game went on, I got a little more comfortable. The team did a good job of keeping the shots to the perimeter and helped me settle in. It was good. I felt good toward the end.”
Niko Porikos and Sam Piazza scored in the final 4:11 of the first period to stake Lavigne to the lead, and another freshman, James Sanchez, added a short-handed breakaway goal in the second and a wrister 2:00 into the third to set the final margin.
By the time Lavigne made one final save on Eli Lichtenwald to preserve the shutout in the final seconds, the debut he had dreamed of had become a reality.
“We learned a lot these first two games, and I think it’s a good thing to build on the rest of the season,” he said.
Big Ten results
Ohio State 3, Air Force 3 (OT; Air Force wins shootout)
Ohio State lost a shootout to Air Force after a 3-3 tie to take second place in the annual Icebreaker Tournament hosted by Denver. The Buckeyes outshot the Falcons 49-28, but needed third-period goals from John Wiitala (2:44) and captain Nick Schilkey (14:43) to erase a 3-1 deficit. Freshman Ronnie Hein also scored his first career goal for OSU, which saw goaltender Christian Frey leave midway through with injury.
Wisconsin 6, Northern Michigan 5
The Badgers rallied to salvage an opening series split with Northern Michigan, winning a 6-5 final at the Resch Center in Green Bay. No team held more than a one-goal lead at any point in a back-and-forth contest finally won by the Badgers when Corbin McGuire tied the game 3:20 into the third and Trent Frederic tallied the winner with 8:24 to play. McGuire had two goals, Luke Kunin and Seamus Malone each had a goal and an assist, and Will Johnson scored for UW.