There’s bad news and good news for the Michigan hockey team in its upcoming series against Ohio State this weekend.
The bad news is that the Wolverines have to travel to Columbus, a daunting task considering that they’ve yet to put together a good road series. Michigan coach Red Berenson has continually lamented the fact that he hasn’t had a team with such a poor road record in years — the Wolverines are currently 1-8-2 on the road this season.
So what’s the good news? At least the hostile environment will be a learning opportunity, effectively Michigan’s last chance to get some experience on the road under its belt before the inevitability of traveling for the CCHA Tournament in two weeks time.
The Wolverines (7-15-2 CCHA, 10-18-2 overall) see the upcoming series as the perfect way to gain some last-minute momentum heading into the final four games of its regular season.
“(The season’s) been tough,” said sophomore forward Alex Guptill. “It’s going to be nice to turn a page … kind of like a fresh start for us. I think it’ll give us a little bit of energy.”
Michigan spent its recent bye week addressing a laundry list of problems that have plagued it all season. But its biggest concern as it approaches its matchup with the Buckeyes is its pitiful goals-against average — around 4.19 per game — which is good for last in the league. This is in stark contract to Ohio State (12-7-5, 13-12-7), which boasts one of the CCHA’s best.
“Offensively, we’ve got enough confidence,” Berenson said. “If we get the right situation, we can find a way to score a couple of goals. It doesn’t do you any good if you’re giving up four or five.”
It’s no secret that part of the reason for the Wolverines’ pitiful goals-against average is that they have yet to find a consistent presence in net. Since none of the three usual starters — freshmen Steve Racine and Jared Rutledge and junior Adam Janecyk — have done much good in the crease, Berenson will be bringing along never-used redshirt sophomore Luke Dwyer for the trip this weekend.
Berenson has held the name of the starting goalie close to his chest all week, and there’s no indication that Dwyer will even see ice time in Columbus. But as the Wolverines’ only unknown variable, Berenson felt Dwyer warranted an opportunity to travel this weekend.
“We’re taking him for a reason,” Berenson said. “He’s fine, not out of place. We didn’t pay much attention to him early in the year (but) he’s not just practicing now, he’s practicing to have a chance to start or play.”
Though every weekend the players and coaches say the upcoming series is a chance to redeem their previous missteps, the Wolverines looked truly refreshed coming out of this bye week, even taking time to laugh and joke around during practice.
“There’s a lot of good spirit in that locker room,” Berenson said. “Our season’s not over and we can be a better team. I think there’s a little more confidence … that we haven’t seen enough of.”