It has been just five days since the No. 19 Michigan hockey team suffered its first sweep of the season at home against No. 6 Notre Dame. And now Bowling Green comes to town for a one-off midweek game with hopes of upsetting the struggling Wolverines.
Yost Ice Arena hasn’t been necessarily friendly this year to the Wolverines, as Michigan (2-5-1 CCHA, 4-6-1 overall) has gone 4-4 at home. The Wolverines are winless on the road, though, going 0-2-1 so far. Last weekend, when No. 6 Notre Dame easily defeated Michigan in both contests of a two-game series, Yost didn’t seem like the best place to play.
Despite Michigan’s struggles, the Falcons (1-5-2, 2-8-3) seem like the perfect team to allow the Wolverines to snap a three-game losing streak spanning all the way back to their loss against Michigan State in East Lansing on Nov. 10. Bowling Green comes into Wednesday’s contest tied with Northern Michigan for the worst record in the conference.
“I’m sure (Bowling Green) is a better team than their record,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “I think we’re trying to prove we’re a better team than our record.”
Berenson said that in any single game, no team in the conference is better than any other. But Michigan holds statistical advantages in both goals scored and goals allowed over Bowling Green. The Wolverines have 23 goals scored and 29 goals allowed in conference play, compared the just 12 goals scored and 22 goals allowed for the Falcons.
Despite these statistics, Michigan has been inconsistent as of late, and it holds just two more points than Bowling Green in the conference standings. A Wolverine loss on Wednesday would position the Falcons ahead of Michigan for ninth-place by a lone point.
Though Bowling Green has not shown itself to be a powerhouse, or even a threat, the Wolverines can’t let their guard down — Berenson said they did just that against Michigan State two weeks ago, leading to an embarrassing 7-2 loss in East Lansing.
“You’re always going to have people that don’t respect the opponent and that’s why there are upsets,” Berenson said. “It’s our job to get our team focused on how we have to play. We can’t look at the opponent, we’ve got to look at (us). We need to show up and then we’ll worry about the opponent.”
Inconsistency in the defensive zone and in offensive production have plagued Michigan during its current losing streak. One solution that Berenson used was to mix up some of the lines, and he said that this week the coaching stuff has been making “subtle changes” to get the lines going yet again.
How the short rest will affect the Wolverines also remains to be seen. After the loss to the Spartans, Michigan had just five days to prepare for the Fighting Irish — resulting in a loss and the sweep. Senior defenseman Lee Moffie, who has experienced similar games and series on shorter than usual rest, said that this should not play a major factor.
“The other teams deal with the same thing, so it’s kind of a two-way thing,” he said.
Either way, Bowling Green appears to be the perfect team to get Michigan back on track after a difficult start to the season. But Berenson knows that it won’t just be a weaker opponent that will set the path right.
“Obviously we need to keep our goals against down and that’s why we haven’t had the success that we need to have,” Berenson said.