DURHAM — The University of Michigan men’s hockey team easily skated to a 4-1 victory over the University of New Hampshire behind its NHL-caliber talent Friday night with 5,246 fans in attendance at the Whittemore Center.
The Wolverines’ goals came from freshmen 2019 NHL Draft first-round picks Johnny Beecher (two) and Cam York, and junior John Becker, who the Boston Bruins selected in the seventh round of the 2015 draft. Boston took Beecher 30th overall and the Philadelphia Flyers selected York 14th overall in this year’s draft.
The Wolverines (4-7-2) entered Friday with an 0-6-1 mark and scored nine goals over that stretch. UNH (5-5-1) enters its rematch with Michigan tonight at 7 p.m. on a three-game losing streak during which it has scored once in each defeat.
Michigan was 0-4 on the road and UNH was 3-0 at home entering Friday.
“I thought their best players were better than our best players,” UNH coach Mike Souza said of the Wolverines. “Beecher and York and Becker and those guys outplayed our top guys (Friday).”
The Wildcats opened the game’s scoring at the 6:21 mark, when freshman forward Chase Stevenson netted his first career goal by redirecting a Ryan Verrier blast from the left point.
Michigan took over from there.
York and Beecher powered Michigan to a 2-1 lead after the opening 20 minutes.
York, who has two goals and five points this year, skated around UNH senior captain Anthony Wyse in the left circle before scoring a wraparound goal with 1:58 remaining in the opening period to break a 1-1 deadlock.
Beecher knotted the score at one goal each with his power-play tally with 7:06 left in the first period. The Elmira, N.Y., resident collected the puck in the crease following a Will Lockwood try and shot around UNH sophomore goaltender and Bedford resident Mike Robinson.
“I think we started off a little bit slow,” Beecher said. “I think that’s kind of been a little bit of a struggle for us throughout the year so far is just coming out ready to play. I think getting that goal and tying it up was huge for us. I definitely think it tipped the ice for us a little bit there and it was huge.”
Becker built a 3-1 Michigan lead 7:41 into the second period. He came out of the penalty box after serving a slashing penalty and scored seven seconds later from the left circle.
Becker’s goal — his fourth of the year — was one of Michigan’s four shots on goal in the middle frame.
“When he hits the net, he’s pretty darn good,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said of Becker. “He can really shoot it. He’s got some talent. He’s a big body. When he gets physical and gets in the game, then he’s pretty good.”
Beecher capped the game’s scoring with an empty-netter with 1:24 remaining to log his fourth goal and eighth point of the season. UNH pulled Robinson (25 saves) for the extra skater with 2:41 left.
UNH bottled the Wolverines in their own zone for long stretches and had a power-play opportunity in the third period but the latter finished the period with a 7-6 shots-on-goal advantage.
“I thought our third period was pretty good,” Souza said. “We shuffled the deck with the lines. Hopefully that’s something to build off of for (today) but, as I told the kids, that’s the University of Michigan. They’re not going to come in here and give you anything, and they didn’t.”
Michigan outshot the Wildcats, 18-9, in the first period and 29-24 overall, and won 39 faceoffs compared with UNH’s 27. The Wolverines went 1-for-3 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Strauss Mann made 23 saves for Michigan.
“When we play well, we’re very effective and we’re hard to play against,” Souza said. “And when we don’t play well, we’re the complete opposite. And (Wyse) said that to the whole team after the game. ... I thought his comments were spot on.”