Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson is still a bit peeved that his team went without a game this past weekend, but he’s taking the opportunity to hammer home a few messages he wouldn’t ordinarily have time to focus on.
Since playing Robert Morris on Halloween, his team has had goalie battles, mini-games, obstacle courses, endless conditioning drills and even a history lesson or two when discussing players telegraphing passes.
“Do you know what a telegraph is?” Berenson recalled telling his team. “You’ve heard the expression, what does it mean? It was Morse code that they sent, and then they translated it. You heard the “Da-di-Da-di-Da” and then wrote it down. And then you delivered the telegram.”
It’s been a long two weeks.
Berenson has been frustrated with his team’s slow start, and a medley of problems that have cropped up early in the season. From a distance, it seems like the Michigan coaching staff is playing a drawn-out game of Whack-a-Mole. One week a goalie controversy pops up, the next finds the offense struggling to capitalize on early chances, and in the next game star defensemen are turning over the puck.
On Tuesday, though, Berenson’s face broke into an uncharacteristically broad grin at the chance to talk about something other than hockey.
“(A telegram) was a special message, usually,” Berenson said. “You paid someone to deliver the message, and they delivered it to your house or your hotel or wherever you were.
“So when I was in Europe, we would never call long distance, with the cost of long distance in those days, but people would send you a telegram.”
Added junior forward Justin Selman: “I’ve never seen (a telegram), but I do know what it is. We don’t want to make plays that represent a telegraph — I know that.”
So maybe Berenson really is always talking about hockey.
The dive into the analogy is excusable, though. It seems like the Wolverines have repeatedly rehashed their problems this week as they search for answers following an ugly loss to the Colonials.
The bye week has only added to the scrutiny — it’s hard to put the past behind with no game ahead to focus on.
The task of moving Michigan (3-1-1) forward fell to a litany of unconventional competitions during the week of practice. Three-on-three battles, rebound drills and hard skating set the tone for the week.
The goaltenders — senior Steve Racine and junior Zach Nagelvoort — were put to work immediately following the loss, facing hundreds of shots each the very next practice. Tuesday, the coaches stacked tires for players to shoot through and shovels for others to slide around.
Following last week’s loss, Berenson said he sat down with a few players one-on-one, giving them specific instructions to up their game. One center was instructed to take 150 faceoffs on his own time.
“I quizzed them about it, and who they took them against,” Berenson said. “It’s interesting, I got a reply that’s very similar to what we’ve done so far. If you look at our faceoffs, we’re .509. Well, we’ve got to get a lot better than that. If you see me pull off a certain line while they’re in our zone, it’s because I’m not trusting the center man.”
Practice has been fun to watch the past couple of weeks, but the creative antics are likely winding down as Friday’s home game against Niagara approaches. Fun and games made the off-week bearable, but game time is approaching again, and Michigan desperately wants a win.