Michigan's last chance for a learning lesson
“We’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got to grow from it,” said Mel Pearson. “There’s a lot of hockey left.”
After losing three of the last four games, the Michigan hockey coach chalked up this weekend’s embarrassing sweep to Ohio State as a learning experience.
With an exhibition against the U.S. National Team Development Program U-18 Team coming up this Saturday, the Wolverines expressed that they would be working on ironing out the kinks of what fans saw as a stagnant offense and an underperforming defense.
“It just gives us a week to work hard and get back to the basics,” said senior forward Dexter Dancs. “You saw this weekend we got outworked basically in every sense of the game, so we have an extra week to kind of work on the things we weren’t good at this weekend.”
However, the young Michigan front is too far into its season to still be learning from its mistakes.
The Wolverines have already been tested. They split their matchups against Penn State, Minnesota and Wisconsin – three teams that required them to play at the height of their capabilities.
So, why wasn’t a similar outcome feasible? The blemishes, as Pearson put it Saturday, should have been uncovered before the puck dropped Friday rather than in the locker room Saturday.
And now that they were revealed – highlighted by just three goals scored and eight against – the Wolverines were left scratching their heads.
“The good teams in the country find ways to win close games like tonight,” said senior defenseman Sam Piazza after Friday’s 3-2 loss. “So that’s something we’re gonna have to figure out if we want to have a good season.”
Piazza is right, after all. The next time Michigan finds itself in a close game with a heavy contender, it can’t be struggling to find the answer to an unaddressed problem.
After the upcoming off-week, the Wolverines will find themselves facing off against Michigan State, Notre Dame and Minnesota in foreign territory. They will have little, if any, time to recover from momentous mistakes.
The picture is not all gloomy, though. This week off – save for an exhibition matchup – could not have come at a better time.
“We’ve got one more Big Ten series (this calendar year) and it’s gonna be a huge one,” Pearson said. “So, we’ve got to use that game to help prepare for that series against Michigan State.”
The Wolverines will be able to figure out who else can spearhead the offense other than junior Cooper Marody, senior Tony Calderone and sophomore Jake Slaker – who has netted seven goals – and remedy this weekend’s defensive lapses.
“You learn that we’re limited.” Pearson said. “I think that was one of the concerns going into the season: Who’s going to score? And it’s no secret that Cooper Marody and Calderone have really been pulling the cart.”
While this week is the opportune time for these fixes, it is also an essential time. Michigan will most likely not find another situation this season when it could take this type of reflection period.
Pearson, and the rest of the coaching staff, have their work cut out for them.