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Notebook: Defense a focus during bye week

Paul Sherman/Daily
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By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 18, 2013

While Michigan coach Red Berenson might not be aware of Monday’s Family Day holiday in his native Canada, he’s aware his hockey family needs to improve its defense.

With a bye week before it heads to Ohio State this weekend, Michigan is looking to use its time off to figure out a gameplan to stop opposing offenses from wreaking havoc.

“You have to make the most of the week, whether you’re in first place or last place,” Berenson said. “I think for the most part we’ve got something out of it.”

The Wolverines not only sit in last place in the CCHA in goals allowed per game, giving up 3.63, but they also rank 57th out of 59 teams in Division I. Only three-win Alabama-Huntsville and winless Sacred Heart have allowed more goals this season.

“We’re going to need everyone bought in, everyone pulling their weight for the team,” said senior defenseman Lee Moffie. “That’s going to start with defense. We start locking down on defense … I think it will give us some confidence and get us going.”

After being paired with sophomore defenseman Mike Chiasson on the third pairing, Moffie will be moved up to the second pairing with junior defenseman Jon Merrill, according to Berenson.

Despite the return of junior defenseman and alternate captain Mac Bennett last weekend, Michigan looked disorganized in its own zone in being swept by No. 11 Notre Dame. Bennett’s presence is expected to make an impact after he regains his stamina and timing with his partner, freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba, on the first pairing in practice.

It will be just the second time that the Wolverines’ four best defensemen will all see the ice in the same game since Jan. 8 against Bowling Green.

“We’ve got to do better than we’ve done,” Berenson said. “Whether it’s on the road or at home, whether defensively or offensively. We need to have a turning point.”

MORRISON RECEIVES RECOGNITION: Former Michigan forward Brendan Morrison returned to Ann Arbor for the weekend for his induction into the Michigan Hall of Honor, chosen by the Athletic Department.

Morrison is one of Michigan’s two Hobey Baker winners — college hockey’s most valuable player award — and was inducted alongside swimmer Gustavo Borges and football standout Rob Lytle.

“It was pretty obvious that he was more than deserving,” Berenson said. “His career here at Michigan was like a Hobey Baker career, it wasn’t just a Hobey Baker season.”

According to MGoBlue.com, candidates must have met all of the following criteria in order to be inducted into the Hall of Honor: a University graduate; NCAA champion or national championship team member; All-American; national or conference player of the year; individual or team Big Ten champion; all-conference award recipient; University, Big Ten, NCAA, world, U.S or Olympic record holder; team captain; Olympic team member or medalist.

The three-time All-American helped lead Michigan to its 1996 national championship after a 34-year title drought, scoring the game-winning goal against Colorado College and being named the MVP.

Morrison is still Michigan’s all-time points (284) and assists (182) leader. He’s one of a select few graduates to compete as an Olympic hockey player, representing Canada in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

“He did it all,” Berenson said. “He made players around him better. We had a lot of talent on that (championship) team, but he definitely was the leader of the pack.”

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Although Michigan didn’t play last weekend, the rest of the CCHA did.

The Wolverines now sit in 10th place after Northern Michigan split its series with Michigan State. If the season were to end today, Michigan would travel to Sault Ste. Marie to face Lake Superior State — which split a series with the Wolverines earlier in the season.

The Wolverines have four games before the end of the regular season, and as Berenson has noted, they’d like to avoid traveling to Alaska — which currently sits in sixth place — if he could control that.

“I think I’m pretty aware of the standings,” said senior forward Kevin Lynch. “I think we’re just focusing on having four good games. We’re worried about the CCHA Tournament right now and focusing on winning that.”