Shots came easily, goals did not.
After last Saturday’s game against Michigan State, Michigan hockey coach Mel Pearson commented on his team’s recent lack of “puck luck” as a big reason for his team’s low conversion rate on offense. The bounces just weren’t going their way all weekend. Shots rattled off the pipe and trickled through the crease –– teasing the Wolverines.
Unfortunately for the Michigan hockey team (6-7-4 overall, 2-4-4-2 Big Ten), that trend continued this weekend.
The Wolverines followed up Friday’s 42-shot performance with 53 shots in Saturday’s 4-3 loss against Minnesota. Junior forward Nick Pastujov shared his team’s frustrations.
“We were right there on a lot of chances,” Pastujov said after Saturday’s game. “We just gotta finish those chances. I think the game could’ve been 7-2 our way.”
Michigan has been getting shots on net but has been unable to translate those shots into goals.
Despite outshooting their opponents in five of their last six games, the Wolverines have not emerged victorious in regulation during that span. The team’s last regulation win was in Happy Valley against Penn State on Nov. 16.
During a second period power play for Michigan on Saturday, a scrum in front of the Gophers’ net led to a loose puck just in front of the crease. In the chaos that ensued, sophomore forward Jack Becker collected the loose puck. It appeared as though it would be a sure goal for the Wolverines with the goaltender out of position.
A score would give them a commanding 4-2 lead, but, instead, Becker’s shot hit a Minnesota defenseman who was on all fours in the crease. The Gophers went on to clear the puck, killing off the penalty and preserving the tie heading into the second intermission.
“We had a number of really good scoring opportunities and we don’t get it,” Pearson said after Saturday’s game. “Then it becomes a one-shot game. They go out and get a break or a rebound and then you’re tied. I think that’s really the story of the game and been the story the last three weeks. … We’re making every goaltender look like they’re an All-American right now.”
Collectively outshooting your opponent, 248-164, in your last six games while being outscored, 12-14, will do that. The offense is generating chances by getting the puck in goal-scoring areas but finishing those chances continues to be a problem. And it is becoming a costly problem for Michigan, as Minnesota is now tied with the Wolverines for fourth in Big Ten standings despite having played two fewer conference games.
It is not for a lack of effort on the part of Michigan. It outplayed Michigan State two weekends ago and came away with only one point. This past weekend against Minnesota, as well, shots depicted them the better team but the Wolverines left the weekend with just two points.
The level of parity in the Big Ten is keeping them afloat and within reaching distance of the top of the conference. A hot streak can rocket them to the top of the standings and secure them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. But failing to come out of a weekend with more than one or two points will keep them in the middle of the pack, or may even send Michigan to the bottom of the table.
Converting on its scoring opportunities will be a key to success in the second half of the season. The Wolverines are heading into the break in a similar spot as last season: hovering around a .500 record and plagued by inconsistent play.
“Not unlike last year at this time,” Pearson said about the state of the team. “Now, can we turn it on like we did? That’s the question that remains to be seen.”