By Saturday, after a disheartening loss against No. 7 Western Michigan the night before, the Michigan hockey team was willing to try just about anything that might change its fortune as it reached the midpoint of its season.
So the Wolverines welcomed junior Adam Janecyk into the crease in lieu of its two other freshmen netminders who have underperformed this year.
Whether it was Janecyk’s presence or the impassioned locker room speech the players delivered after Friday’s game, something clicked for the Wolverines to spark a 2-0 victory over the Broncos — their first shutout of the post-Shawn Hunwick era.
When Janecyk walked into Yost Ice Arena on Saturday morning, he simply saw his number on the lineup sheet. There was no conversation between him and the coaching staff — just the expectation that he would go in and try where the other two goalies had so miserably failed.
“Janeyck has been the unknown,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson, who had initially planned on starting Steve Racine. “We thought, ‘It’s time.’ I didn’t know what we would get from Janecyk because he’s not been better in practice than the other two (but) he showed up tonight.”
But Saturday wasn’t just about the team rallying around Janecyk. The night before, Berenson chastised the team for everything from its lack of “second-effort hockey” — diving for the puck, delivering crushing hits and all-around gritty play — to having no grade-A scoring chances.
The Wolverines (4-7-2 CCHA, 6-9-2 overall) showcased a whole season’s worth of second-effort hockey in the first period, and for the most part, they kept the puck out of their zone, leaving Janecyk with little to do.
And as soon as the second-effort hockey started, the quality scoring chances followed. Just minutes into the contest, Bronco goaltender Frank Slubowski was drawn out behind the goal, leaving freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba with a wide-open net.
It’s not easy to beat Slubowski, who sits fourth among CCHA goalies for goals against, and he rushed back to the crease before Trouba could get his shot off. But the close call set the trend for other quality Michigan looks and odd-man rushes throughout scoreless first and second periods.
“We didn’t make the mistakes that we made last night,” Berenson said. “I thought our team played with a lot more will and conviction. We played more like men tonight. Last night, we played like boys.”
For the times Western Michigan (8-3-1, 11-4-1) did take the puck into Michigan’s zone, Janecyk remained solid and actually made the easy saves, something the two freshmen goalies have struggled with all season.
Saturday marked the first time all season the Wolverines entered the third period scoreless. But sophomore defenseman Brennan Serville lit the lamp just minutes into the frame with a slapshot from the slot.
Serville’s teammates wrestled him to the ground in celebration of his first career goal. The crowd at Yost was the loudest it had been all night. And Michigan had a little more pep in its step as it confidently swarmed Slubowski.
It also didn’t hurt the Wolverines’ cause that they mostly managed to stay out of the penalty box, hardly giving the Broncos any opportunity to show off a stellar power play that ranks sixth nationally.
In fact, it was Michigan’s power play that finally sealed the game. Trouba fired a one-timer from the blue line past Slubowski’s shoulder with eight minutes left in the final frame to put the Wolverines up 2-0, a score that would hold for the remainder of the night.
Janecyk was quick to point out that the game was “more of a team shutout than anything,” and Berenson wouldn’t acknowledge the new goaltender as a potential long-term game changer for the Wolverines — yet.
“Is it another Hunwick story?” Berenson asked. “We’ll have to wait and see. But tonight it was a team effort.”