GLI Notebook: Glendening's talk spurs Wolverines
Momentum shifts are often quickly and easily apparent. A goaltender makes a huge save, a special-teams unit kills off a five-minute major penalty or a defenseman levels an opposing forward with a clattering hit on the boards, visibly energizing a team.
Occasionally, though, they take place more subtly. And they might not even come from someone on the team.
Michigan hockey fans remember Luke Glendening well. After joining the Wolverines as a walk-on, the Grand Rapids, Mich. native eventually became a two-year captain, and helped lead Michigan to the 2011 National Championship game. Glendening played in every game his final three seasons and recorded 70 points in 165 career games.
After the Wolverines dropped their Great Lakes Invitational opener to Bowling Green on Monday, Glendening — who now plays for the Detroit Red Wings — spoke to his former program.
“He just talked about when he came here he was a walk-on and never really promised anything. The coaches told him he may never get to play here,” said junior forward Cooper Marody. “Just with hard work and determination and passion for Michigan he was able to be a captain for two years, and obviously also he’s had a great career in the NHL thus far. He just passionately spoke about Michigan and what it takes to be a Michigan man every day.”
It didn’t appear, however, Glendening’s visit made an immediate impact. After giving up four goals in the first 24 minutes against the Falcons, Michigan came out just as flat against Michigan State a day later. The Wolverines conceded a goal in the game’s first minute and left the ice at the first intermission down another.
But according to Michigan coach Mel Pearson, that was when Glendening’s words of wisdom began to soak in.
“I thought he gave a real good talk,” Pearson said. “From the heart, not just something made up, and I thought that was really good and I thought we had time to reflect on that discussion he had with our team before the game. Not that that was the miracle pill or something like that, but I think it was important.”
The Wolverines came out of the locker room a noticeably different team. Sophomore forward James Sanchez closed the lead to one with his first goal of the season, and after Michigan State answered back with a power-play goal, Michigan scored four unanswered to run away with the contest.
“He really just told us after yesterday’s loss to take a look in the mirror,” said senior defenseman Cutler Martin. “It’s easy to point fingers, maybe, but everyone needs to do their job and make sure they do it to the best of their abilities, so look at yourself and look at what you can do better.”
Lockwood out for extended period
Michigan knew it wouldn’t have three of its best players for the Great Lakes Invitational. Sophomore forward Will Lockwood, freshman forward Josh Norris and defenseman Quinn Hughes were selected to the United States National Team for the World Junior Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.
However, the Wolverines might be without one of them for longer than anticipated. During a U.S. victory against Canada on Dec. 29, Lockwood took a hit from behind and fell to the ice, landing hard on his left shoulder. Shortly afterwards, he was ruled out for the remainder of the tournament with an “upper-body” injury.
On Monday, Pearson stated that he was “not sure” about Lockwood’s status, but that his injury might be a season-ending one — a potentially catastrophic blow to Michigan’s offense. Through 16 games, Lockwood was tied as Michigan’s fourth-leading scorer with 11 points.
“We’ll reevaluate him when he gets back in (from World Juniors),” Pearson said. “It’s a possibility he could be out for the year, but it’s a possibility he could come back. But he’s going to miss a few weeks for sure.”
Cutler Martin makes impact in return
On Oct. 28, the senior defenseman took the ice against Penn State. He wouldn’t do so again until Monday.
An upper-body injury rendered Martin unable to play for most of the last two months. And even as Martin returned to health, he faced another obstacle: winter break. During the last three weeks, Michigan practiced infrequently — forcing Martin to rapidly reacclimate on the fly, instead of easing back into action.
This made his performance against the Spartans on Tuesday all the more unexpected. Not only did Martin score the go-ahead goal, but he was also a dangerous presence from the point throughout the game with his hard slap-shot. Martin was second on the Wolverines with five shots on goal, all of which came in the crucial final period.
“I’m just happy to be back on the ice,” Martin said. “Just being back out there with the guys and getting the win.”
Added Pearson: “I thought he played extremely well. He’s missed a lot of games, but we didn’t even have practices really the last two weeks. So for him to come in and play as well as he did is important.”
For a Michigan defense that has struggled all season, Martin — one of just two seniors on the blue line — adds toughness and physicality, and should be a major key if the Wolverines are to improve upon their lackluster defensive ranking.
Secondary options come up big
Martin’s goal was just one part of a surprising trend for Michigan. Three other Wolverines lit the lamp for the first time this season during the GLI. Freshman forward Jack Becker scored against Bowling Green — albeit with a helpful assist from the Falcons’ goaltender. Sanchez opened the scoring on Tuesday, and freshman forward Michael Pastujov finished off a rebound from close range to record Michigan’s second goal later in the period.
The Wolverines have struggled to obtain consistent production when their first line of Marody and senior forwards Tony Calderone and Dexter Dancs isn’t on the ice. Without Lockwood, Hughes and Norris for the GLI, these problems had the potential to be amplified. Michigan’s secondary offensive threats, however, made sure that wasn’t the case.
“You need someone to step up,” Pearson said Tuesday. “I thought we had some of the secondary scoring come from guys we needed it to come from. Mike Pastujov had a big goal, his first career goal at Michigan. James Sanchez scored his first goal.
“I’m really proud of the effort of the guys. We get behind, we stay with it, we’re without three really good hockey players — excellent hockey players — and it’s good to see some other guys step in and get it done.”