At the outset of the season less than a month ago, one would think that the Michigan hockey team would be a fast-paced scoring team after a 10-1 drubbing of Western Ontario. After four games, though, the Wolverines are shaping up to be the opposite: a hard-nosed team that wears its opponents down over the course of entire games. 

“We’re trying to play with more pace in practice so when we get in the game it will seem easier,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson before that game. “Not that it will be, but mainly just the pace and attention to detail.”

Michigan (3-1) opened its season with the goal of being a quick, high-intensity team. It either hasn’t achieved that aim yet, or its playing style is transforming into something different.

This season, the Wolverines have combined for 131 shots and allowed just 89 thus far, consistently putting incredible pressure on their opponents. In terms of first-period scoring, however, they have combined for just two goals.

While some may view this as something to work on, fans may have to come to grips with the fact that this may not be the flashiest season of hockey they will see. What Michigan does promise, though, is a certain level of consistent intensity that will grab wins, even if it’s only by a small margin.

“I liked the way our team stayed with it,” Pearson said Tuesday on WTKA. “ … They stayed with it and you could see that at the start of the third period, which I thought was our best period on Saturday. And our team hung in there, they stayed with the game plan.

“That’s one of the things we’ve been preaching is, regardless of the situation, whether we’re up by five goals, down by a goal — whatever it might be — first period, second period, is to continue to play the game.”

Freshman forward Josh Norris reinforced that sentiment after this weekend’s matchups against Vermont (2-4). Following a missed penalty shot Friday, Norris ended up scoring two goals.

Perhaps a true testament to the Wolverines’ playing style, even with those missed chances, there continues to be zero hesitation to chip away at the opposing defense.

“Yeah, it’s definitely frustrating,” Norris said on Friday. “I think anytime like that, you want to help your team out, but you kind of have to refocus and see what lies ahead.”

Ultimately, it’s still early in the season and there is plenty more to see from the Michigan offense. However, it is increasingly likely that this will be a team that grinds out games to the final whistle rather than burning up early.

Entering conference play this weekend against Penn State (1-1 Big Ten, 3-3), though, which style is preferable is yet to be determined.

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