Wolverines’ resiliency on display this weekend
“Another gritty character performance by our players.”
That was how Michigan coach Mel Pearson categorized his team’s play against Wisconsin on Saturday.
Such has been the storyline for the majority of the season – a firm Wolverine front that comes from behind and gives its opponents no reason to feel comfortable.
Sophomore forwards Jake Slaker and Nick Pastujov epitomized that storyline Saturday, tallying two comeback goals in the third period against No. 9 Wisconsin.
The two drove down the slot and delivered perfectly timed wrist shots that stunned the crowd and the Wolverines’ bench in Madison.
The No. 17 Michigan hockey team (2-2-2-1 Big Ten, 6-4-2 overall) is no stranger to that type of performance.
Against Vermont, sophomore forward Adam Winborg equalized in the first period after an embarrassing 1-0 deficit. Against Penn State, despite the series-opening loss, senior forward Dexter Dancs and junior forward Cooper Marody netted come-from-behind goals in the second and third periods, respectively, that did not end up being enough.
An onslaught of six come-from-behind goals in the Wolverines’ tie to Minnesota displayed this resiliency again despite how the Golden Gophers prevailed in a shootout.
“They continue to battle,” Pearson said. “And that’s what I really appreciate about this team is they stay with it.”
Added Calderone after Michigan’s shutout win over Wisconsin: “I think we showed resilience again. It’s been a common theme this year, but I think we like to not put ourselves in that situation so it’s something that we ought to work on, but once again we came back and that was huge.”
However, as evident by the four goals that the Badgers netted in the first and second periods Friday night, late-game efforts sometimes aren’t not enough.
A common thread, even in tough situations like Friday’s loss to Wisconsin, is that the players – and Pearson – believe that grit is consistently present.
In a weekend that was full of defensive lapses, some of the players saw that there could have been improvements in communication.
“You just have to compete,” Marody said. “You have good communication with the defensemen, have good support on the pucks in the scrum.
“We definitely have to tighten up some stuff, and we’re gonna work hard in practice this week to do that.”
This is the fourth time that Michigan has split a weekend series, but banking on late goals from the likes of Calderone, Marody and Dancs has become commonplace.
Facing off against two of the best teams in the Big Ten in Minnesota and Wisconsin already, the battle-tested Wolverines have a culture of resolve when it counts.
Going forward, that steadfastness should be able to steamroll lower caliber opponents.