Owen Power shows Sabers GM Kevyn Adams more 'special' traits in Frozen Four loss |  Buffalo Sabers News

Owen Power shows Sabers GM Kevyn Adams more ‘special’ traits in Frozen Four loss | Buffalo Sabers News

BOSTON – Owen Power skated slowly, and aimlessly, while hunched over as his teammates stood somber on the Michigan bench Thursday night in TD Garden.

Behind Power, at the other end of the ice, Denver’s players mobbed Carter Savoie, whose goal with 5:07 remaining in overtime secured a 3-2 win over the Wolverines and sent the Pioneers to the national championship game. Minnesota State won the other semifinal matchup against Minnesota, whose roster included Sabers prospects Ryan Johnson and Aaron Huglen.

After a memorable 33 games as a sophomore, including two NCAA regional wins to reach the Frozen Four, Power’s college hockey career was over. While not official, the dynamic 19-year-old defenseman will sign an entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabers to make his NHL debut as soon as next week.

“Buffalo’s going to get a real good hockey player,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said from the podium afterward. “I hope maybe one more year we can get out of him.”

The future wasn’t on Power’s mind as he processed what unfolded on the ice.

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He returned to Michigan after his selection first overall by the Sabers in July – the first No. 1 pick to not make the immediate jump to the NHL since Erik Johnson in 2006 – with the goal of winning a national title. The Wolverines’ roster included four of the top five picks in the 2021 draft, including defenseman Luke Hughes, who was on the ice with Power with their season on the line Thursday night.

Even through all the positives, from Power’s maturation into a well-rounded defenseman to representing Canada at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the disappointment of not winning Michigan’s first championship since 1998 was a difficult way for it to end. But even in defeat, Power showed Sabers General Manager Kevyn Adams, who sat in a suite with owner Terry Pegula, among others, that the next member of the young core has taken significant strides since draft day.

“I thought as the game got tighter and tighter, he elevated more and more, which is a great sign,” Adams told The Buffalo News. “You could see that he wanted the puck. He wanted to be on the ice. He was barely off the ice in overtime, which is great. I really see him as an all-situations guy that’s going to be out there up a goal, down a goal, power play, penalty kill.

“When you get in big moments, you could see he wants it.”

From the top rows of Section 322 in TD Garden, the 19,580-seat arena that’s home to the Boston Bruins, the Michigan Marching Band played the university’s fight song, Hail to the Victors during warmups. Droves of fans in maize and blue filed to their seats.

Down at ice level, a young boy pressed a paper sign against the plexiglass along the end boards that read, “Owen Power, can I please have a puck?”

It was the kind of once-in-a-lifetime moment Power wanted to experience when he decided to return to Michigan for his sophomore year rather than join the Sabers. And the scene paled in comparison to the tension-filled 60 minutes of regulation between the top-seeded Wolverines and Denver.

Power showed all the subtle improvements he wanted to make as a sophomore. He was on the ice in every situation – he seemingly played every other shift late in regulation and during overtime – against an opponent that leads the nation in goals per game (4.28). He protected the puck along the boards to gain possession of the puck on the forecheck.

When Denver forward Cole Guttman attempted a wraparound early in the first period, Power was there to thwart the opportunity. Later, he blocked a shot from the slot when the Wolverines ‘skill was getting trumped by the Pioneers’ methodical structure. And during Michigan’s three penalty kills in regulation, Power caught his breath between stoppages to prepare for a long shift rather than going to bench for a change.

Michigan did not make Power available to the media after the game.

“It’s not easy to play that big of minutes,” Adams added. “You have to have a balance of managing being efficient versus not saving yourself. All the top players can do it and all the top defensemen end up spending half the game on the ice. I look at our team and where we’re at right now, when you plug a guy like that right in there, another young, talented, hungry player who wants to be great, that’s special. ”

An uncharacteristically sloppy performance by Michigan led to turnovers and one-and-done possessions, particularly late in regulation after the Wolverines’ Thomas Bordeleau tied the score, 2-2, with 10:51 remaining.

Sabers prospect Erik Portillo got the game to overtime with several outstanding saves in regulation. Portillo, a third-round draft choice in 2019, stopped Massimo Rizzo’s one-timer from the slot with 14:48 left and he made a glove save in tight on Carter Mazur to keep the deficit at one shortly before Bordeleau delivered the tying goal.

Portillo finished with 30 saves and will have the option to sign with the Sabers or return to school for his junior season.

With the season on the line, Power was first over the boards. When not on the ice in the final moments of regulation and for the duration of overtime, he was leaning over the bench in a clear sign that he wanted to be out there. Fans of the four semifinal teams watched as the game went into overtime. The NCAA announced an official attendance of 17,850.

“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 they couldn’t capitalize on their chances. And a mistake in front of Denver led to the loss, as Savoie wasn’t deterred from getting to his own rebound and he scored the winning goal on a backhand.

Power finished with one blocked shot and zero points in his final college game. His final season with the Wolverines included three goals, 32 points, 50 blocked shots and a plus-26 rating in 33 games. He averaged a team-high 21:38 of ice time for Canada at the Winter Olympics and became the first defenseman to score a hat trick for Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship, which ended abruptly because of Covid-19 cases.

Adams chose to give Power space following the loss rather than immediately broaching the top prospect about what’s next. The two would talk later Thursday night or Friday morning.

Power’s contract signing is a foregone conclusion. The details will be sorted out once the raw emotion passes. And once Power joins the Sabers, he’ll have all the lessons learned during a remarkable second season in college that allowed him to experience the exhilarating moments and this harsh ending.

“I was talking to him yesterday, we’ve been roommates ever since he came in here, and you just get so close to someone like that,” said Michigan captain Nick Blankenburg. “You care about these guys a lot. You see them grow and it’s something special to see, especially with Owen.

“He’d never done laundry before he came here. His mom and his girlfriend would cook his meals for him, so he’s able to do that now. I think just maturing and becoming more of a man has helped him off the ice. You see his confidence all over the ice. And just his maturity as a player has grown over this last year. … I’ll be excited to watch him continue his career on. “

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