BOSTAN – Owen Power skated slowly and aimlessly, stooping while his teammates grimly stood on the bench in Michigan on Thursday night at TD Garden.
For Power, at the other end of the ice, Denver players defeated Carter Savoy, whose 5:07 goal, which remained in overtime, secured a 3-2 victory over Wolverine and sent the Pioneers to the national championship match. Minnesota State won the second semifinal match against Minnesota, which included Sabers Ryan Johnson and Aaron Haglen.
After a memorable 33 sophomore games, including two NCAA regional wins to reach the Frozen Four, Power’s hockey career in college ended. Although it’s not official, the dynamic 19-year-old defender will sign a entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabers to make his NHL debut next week.
“Buffalo will get a really good hockey player,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said from the podium afterwards. “I hope maybe another year we can get out of it.”
The future was not in Power’s mind as he handled what unfolded on the ice.
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He returned to Michigan after the Sabers were selected first in the overall standings in July – the first choice of No. 1, which did not make an immediate leap into the NHL after Eric Johnson in 2006 – to win the national title. The Raamahi list included four of the top five picks in the 2021 draft, including quarterback Luke Hughes, who was on the ice with Power on Thursday night.
Despite all the positives, from Power’s development as a well-developed defender to Canada’s performance at the Beijing Winter Olympics, the disappointment of winning Michigan’s first championship since 1998 has been a difficult path to end. But even in the defeat, Power showed Sabers CEO Kevin Adams, who was sitting in a suite with owner Terry Pegula, among others, that the next member of the young core has made significant progress since the day of conscription.
“I thought that as the game got tougher and more intense, it went up more and more, which is a great sign,” Adams told The Buffalo News. “You could see he wanted the puck. He wanted to be on the ice. He almost got out of the ice in overtime, which is great. I really see him as a guy in any situation who will score goals, score goals, play in power, score penalties.
“When you get into important moments, you see that he wants it.”
From the top rows of section 322 of the TD Garden, an arena of 19,580 seats home to the Boston Bruins, the Michigan Marching Band played the university battle song Hail to the Victors during the warm-up. Crowds of fans in corn and blue came to their seats.
Below, at the level of the ice, a young boy pressed a paper sign against plexiglass along the end boards with the inscription, “Owen Power, can I have a puck, please?”
It was a moment that Power wanted to relive once in a lifetime when he decided to return to Michigan for sophomore year rather than join the Sabers. And the scene faded compared to the tense 60-minute adjustment between the best-seeded Wolverines and Denver.
Power showed all the subtle improvements he wanted to make in his sophomore year. He was on the ice in any situation – he seemed to play every second shift at the end of regular time and in overtime – against an opponent who leads in the number of goals per game (4.28). He defended the puck along the boards to take possession of the puck on the front puck.
When Denver striker Cole Gutman tried to get off to a start early in the first period, Power was there to thwart that opportunity. He later blocked a kick from the slot when Wolverine’s skill surpassed the Pioneers ’methodological structure. And during Michigan’s three free kicks in regulation, Power took a breather between breaks to prepare for a long shift rather than go to the bench for a change.
Michigan did not make Power available to the media after the game.
“It’s not easy to play in such big minutes,” Adams added. “You have to have a balance between effective management and not saving yourself. All the best players can do that, and all the best defenders end up spending half the game on the ice. I look at our team and where we are now, when you join such a guy, another young, talented, hungry player who wants to be great, it’s special. “
Michigan’s uncharacteristically sloppy game led to reversals and a “one-and-a-half” possession, especially at the end of the main event after Thomas Bordelo of Raamahi tied 2-2, remaining 10:51.
Sabers Avenue Eric Portillo brought the game to overtime by making some great saves in regular time. Portillo, selected in the third round of the draft in 2019, stopped a one-time attempt by Massimo Ritz from the gate, with 14:48 left, and he hit the glove by pressing Carter Mazur to keep the deficit at one level shortly before Brothel scored.
Portillo finished with 30 saves and will be able to sign with the Sabers or return to school for the junior season.
With the season on the line, Power was first over the boards. When he wasn’t on the ice in the final moments of the main match and during overtime, he leaned over the bench, obviously wanting to be there. Fans of the four semi-final teams watched the game go into overtime. The NCAA has announced that the official attendance is 17,850 people.
“His game from last year, where he was, to where he is now, this year has just grown exponentially,” Pearson said.
The Wolverines found their game in overtime, but could not take advantage of their chances. And a mistake in front of Denver led to a loss, as Savoy did not prevent to get their own rebound and scored the winning goal from the backhand.
Power finished with one blocked shot and a zero point in his last student game. His last season with Raamaha included three goals, 32 points, 50 blocked shots and a plus-26 rating in 33 games. At the Winter Olympics in Canada, he averaged 21:38 ice time and became the first defender to score a hat-trick for Canada at the Junior World Hockey Championship, which ended abruptly due to the Covid-19 cases.
Adams decided to give Power a place after the loss, rather than immediately touching on the prospects of what would happen next. They spoke later Thursday night or Friday morning.
Signing a contract with Sila is in advance. The details will be disassembled as soon as the emotions pass. And once Power joins the Sabers, he will get all the lessons during a wonderful second season in college that allowed him to relive the exciting moments and this harsh end.
“I talked to him yesterday, we’ve been neighbors around the room since he came here, and you’re just so close to someone like that,” said Michigan captain Nick Blankenburg. “You really care about these guys. You see how they grow and it’s something special, especially with Owen.
“He never washed clothes before he came here. His mom and his girlfriend cooked him food, so he can do it now. I think only growing up and becoming a more masculine man helped him get out of the ice. You’ll see his confidence on all the ice. And only his maturity as a player has grown over the past year. … I will be happy to watch him continue his career. “