The Michigan hockey team was outscored, 11-2, in its two-game series at Penn State. There aren’t many positives the Wolverines can take away from those results, and in the press conference after Friday’s game, that sentiment was reinforced.
When talking about the physical nature of the series, Michigan coach Red Berenson said his team still had pride, and senior forward Alex Kile quietly explained that Michigan simply wasn’t good enough against the Nittany Lions.
Yet, the season still goes on. As devastated as the Wolverines (0-2-0 Big Ten, 6-7-1 overall) may have been after the weekend, Wisconsin will still travel to Ann Arbor for the teams’ series starting Friday. Despite how poorly Michigan played against Penn State, it still must find a way to refocus for the future.
“We had a good meeting before practice,” Berenson said. “We talked about having a rebound week, and get back to playing the kind of hockey we were playing two or three weeks ago.”
Shifting focus may be easier for Berenson than others — he’s spent most of his life playing and coaching hockey. For the players themselves, refocusing after a blowout loss can be more difficult, but veteran players can smooth the transition from a poor showing to the next game.
“First of all, I spend personally — and I encourage other guys to do this — 20 minutes after any game, good or bad, thinking about that game,” said senior goaltender Zach Nagelvoort. “And then it’s all on to the next thing. And I think you’d find a lot of other guys in the locker room who have that same approach. So as far as the week of practice, we’re looking forward. We’re looking at Wisconsin this weekend.”
Nagelvoort played in Thursday’s game against the Nittany Lions and faced 29 shots in just two periods, one more shot than the Wolverines had the entire game. As staggering as that total is, it pales in comparison to the 58 shots from Penn State that freshman Jack LaFontaine faced Friday.
Nevertheless, the number of shots a goaltender faces is not in his control. And just like how Michigan must refocus on the next game, Nagelvoort says, a goaltender has to refocus on the next shot.
“You can’t make the save seven shots from now right now,” Nagelvoort said. “Staying in the moment is the biggest thing, which is one of the hardest things to do in goaltending, and in any sport I would imagine, and a lot of different things in life. But specifically as a goalie, you’ve got to just find some way to stay dialed in to the moment you’re in.”
Giving up a high volume of shots is just one of Michigan’s weaknesses that Penn State exposed. The team is working to fix those weaknesses, and Berenson isn’t going to overreact. He is focused on improving the team that he has right now.
“It’s not any one thing,” Berenson said. “Our penalty killing wasn’t very good. Our power play wasn’t very good, our goalies were, I thought, OK. Our defense has to be better, and our forwards have to be better.
“It’s a challenge. And yet, we’re not going to reinvent our team. We’re not going to trade all our players. We’re going to try and build them up and get them playing the way they need to play.”