The pieces are slowly starting to come together.
Despite the No. 12 Michigan hockey team’s 1-2 record, there’s been visible improvement in each game.
Sometimes the defense will show flashes of a lockdown group of blueliners. Sometimes, the offense looks like it has found its rhythm.
But with St. Lawrence (1-3) coming to town this weekend, it’s time for the Wolverines to put all the pieces together and finish brushing off the summer dust.
“It obviously takes a little bit to get the rust off from summer hockey and all that and get really going in the games,” said senior forward Brendan Warren. “But I think every game we’ve played we’ve gotten better with the puck and better defensively, and just better all around. I think as we keep going here and working on things every week, we’re gonna keep getting better.”
The place Michigan has predominantly shown rustiness has been on possession — not just in the offensive zone or in the neutral zone, but anywhere on the ice. Countless turnovers and sloppy passes have led directly to goals for opposing teams.
Michigan coach Mel Pearson says the turnover issue has been addressed, but the next step is showing that improvement in a game.
“Now we have to go out and improve and learn from it, and sometimes that’s easier said than done because the pressure of a game, it’s hard to recreate that in practice,” Pearson said. “You’re trying to. You’re trying to create game-like situations so whenever they get in those spots where they can’t turn the puck over they make a better read.”
As a team deep in a rebuild, St. Lawrence holds the drive of desperation, likely to take advantage of any opportunity the Wolverines give them.
“They’re gonna be scrappy. They’re desperate,” Pearson said. “They’re trying to rebuild there, their coach is in his second year there and he’s done a good job. They’re a scary team to play. You look at some of games they had last year, a lot of one-goal losses, especially early.”
Michigan has had two games decided by one goal this season — a 6-5 win over No. 19 Western Michigan and a 5-4 loss to the Broncos the following night. The Wolverines have, at times, been caught starting slow and not competing from the first puck drop.
In this weekend’s series, they’ll have to be ready from the very beginning.
“(The Saints are) gonna show up, they’re gonna play physical and they’re gonna compete,” Pearson said. “We have to make sure we bring our compete hats first and foremost and then skill can take over.
“Will (beats) skill if skill doesn’t show up.”
And this series is more than just an opportunity for the Wolverines to put the pieces together and knock the dust off.
In Friday’s game, Michigan will raise awareness for ALS — the incurable neurodegenerative disorder that former Wolverine Scott Matzka suffers from. Matzka was a member of the 1997 National Champion team and played under Pearson throughout his Michigan career.
“It’s really important to us,” Warren said. “Everyone knows (Matzka) and everything that he’s been going through, so this is a big game for us to really do our part in helping the awareness get out about ALS and help (Matzka.)”