Welcome to another season of MiHockey’s Michi-gamer! We take great pride in our homegrown talent. Whether they grew up in the Mitten or we welcomed them here for college or juniors, they are our own. They represent the best place in the world for hockey. Every morning, we pick one Michi-gamer from the previous night’s slate of games across all professional levels of hockey – one Michigan player who stood out above the rest.
OCTOBER 30 – JEFF ZATKOFF
On Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins gave up 53 shots on goal. Good thing Jeff Zatkoff stopped 50 of them. The Chesterfield native, a Miami RedHawks product, held a .943 save percentage on the night to lead his Penguins to a 4-3 win. Considering it was his first start at the NHL level this season, we think he’s pretty happy with how it turned out.
OCTOBER 29 – ERIC NYSTROM
Eric Nystrom picked up his third goal of the season on Wednesday, starting his Nashville Predators down a road that would lead them to a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Nystrom, a NTDP and University of Michigan alum, scored on a rocket of a one-timer off a feed from Roman Josi. The 32-year-old forward is quickly gaining on his mark of seven goals last season – Nashville management must be thrilled with his strong start to the season.
Howell native T.J. Hensick came up big for his Charlotte Checkers in AHL action Tuesday night. With the Checkers and Rockford IceHogs knotted at one after three periods and an overtime frame, the University of Michigan and United States National Team Development Program alumnus was the only skater to score in the shootout, lifting the Checkers to a 2-1 victory. In eight contests so far this season, Hensick has tallied a goal and two assists while skating for Charlotte, farm team to the Carolina Hurricanes. Last season, Hensick had a big year, recording 19 goals and 60 points in 75 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs. The 29-year-old Hensick was a prolific scorer during his four-year stint with the Wolverines, amassing 222 points in 164 games from 2003-07.
OCTOBER 27 – NO NOTABLE PERFORMANCES
After scoring his first AHL goal on Oct. 18, the game-winning marker in Albany’s 3-2 win over Toronto, Brighton native Blake Pietila figured, “Why stop there?” In his next three games, played consecutively on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Michigan Tech alum recorded a point in each of the contests. In Friday’s tilt, Pietila scored the Devils’ second goal in a 4-2 loss to the Portland Pirates. The next night, in a rematch against Portland, Pietila scored at 17:36 of the second period to give Albany a 2-0 lead. With the Pirates adding one late in the third period, Pietila’s goal turned out to be the game-winner. On Sunday, he added a helper on Matt Lorito’s game-tying goal early in the second period en route to a 4-1 victory. Pietila has amassed two game-winning goals and four points in his young professional career. Not bad.