- Patrick Barron/Daily
By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 9, 2014
EAST LANSING — Michigan hockey, how do you know which version of your team will show up on a given night?
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How do you know when the 12th-ranked Wolverines that won 7-1 against the fifth-place team in the Big Ten, or the ones that lost 4-3 to the same team the next day, will come to play?
At what point did you forget Michigan State would bounce back from the loss on Friday night? Did you not focus on staying even-keeled after you won? Or was there a point when you thought the Spartans would go away without a fight?
Was something said to the same 21 players on Saturday night that was different than Friday night? Was it an attitude change, fast-spreading virus or breakup that caused you to drop off from the 3-1 lead you held at the end of the first period? Or the 3-2 lead you held at the end of the second frame?
Did you miss your captain, senior defenseman Mac Bennett, that much on Saturday? Did you struggle to pick up the intensity late in the game without him?
After the third goal was allowed in the third period, did you notice how the rest of the team responded without saying anything or hanging its heads? Or did you notice after the fourth goal was let in minutes later and your goaltender, sophomore Steve Racine, shook his head? Weren’t you uncomfortable as Munn Ice Arena erupted for the loudest its been all year?
Isn’t Saturday’s bewildering team infuriating after you surrendered only one shot in the second period on Friday and allowed only one goal for the first time since January?
Can you explain how frustrating it is that you’ve finished the past three weekends with a split against the bottom three teams in the Big Ten standings? Was this loss to Michigan State as “embarrassing,” as many of you said following the loss to Penn State two weekends ago?
Have you noticed that you’ve played like two different teams the entire season? Can you remember games from the beginning of the season?
Were you not aware of the type of team you were after losing to lowly Canadian college Waterloo and then beating a top-five team in the country in Boston College? Against the Rochester Institute of Technology, did you recognize the two different teams after surrendering a four-goal lead?
Can you remember beginning the year 10-2-1 against some of the best teams in the nation? Do you realize you’re 3-5-1 in your last nine games, where the tie counts as a loss in the Big Ten standings?
What about your last-place finish in the Great Lakes Invitational didn’t inspire you to find an identity? Being swept in Wisconsin? Nearly sweeping the Badgers two weeks later?
At this point, does it feel like the flip of a coin determines which team shows up, or would a coin flip be a more reliable indicator?
What will it take to play with consistency and figure out which team shows up? When you do figure it out, how will everyone know?
Do you understand what the magnitude of a loss to a team like Michigan State has on your chances of making the NCAA Tournament? If you don’t, do you know you need a win this weekend for any shot at returning to the postseason? Were you already feeling the pressure to win, or did it take this weekend to sink in?
Did you feel the panic consume you when you remembered the No. 1 team in the country, Minnesota, arrives next weekend? Were you already thinking about that looming matchup during Saturday’s game?
Do you have what it takes to put together a run like you did at the end of last season? If so, when do you plan to make that run? Are you aware that time is running out?
After you qualified for 22 consecutive years until last season, will you rally in your last series of the year to prove you belong in the postseason? Or will you be on the wrong side of history? Again?
Are you tired of asking these questions every week?
I know I sure am.
Garno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @G_Garno