Notebook: Lines change after offensive woes

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By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 11, 2013

Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson has not shied away from saying that his team’s lines for any given game are subject to change. In fact, all but one game thus far has featured a line change of one form or another.

The trend will be no different this weekend as Berenson alters the lines once more after the offense’s stagnant production of late. This time, though, each line will get a makeover.

Michigan (6-1-1) is tied for 28th of the 59 teams in Division I for scoring with 2.75 goals per game. Only once this season have the second-ranked Wolverines scored more than three goals.

At Monday’s practice, Berenson used five different lines, including a new fourth line that features junior forward Zach Hyman — a regular winger — at center alongside sophomore forward Justin Selman and freshman forward Evan Allen.

“We’re looking for good combinations,” Berenson said. “That’s why we’ve had the bye week, so this was a good chance to spend more time practicing with these lines.

“Right now, I think there’s a lot of good things going on, and sometimes it’s a breath of fresh air to all the sudden be on a different line.”

The all-freshman line that included Allen, JT Compher and Tyler Motte was broken up in the process, as Motte will play alongside sophomore forward Andrew Copp and junior forward Phil Di Giuseppe.

Compher, meanwhile, will center a line that includes two of Michigan’s biggest scoring threats in junior Alex Guptill and senior Derek DeBlois.

“We don’t just throw names into a hat,” Berenson said. “We think carefully about what (sophomore forward) Boo (Nieves) needs and what (senior forward Luke) Moffatt needs and so on, right through our whole lineup.”

BYE-WEEK BONDING: Even when they don’t need to play hockey, the Wolverines still find themselves watching it.

On Friday, the team congregated at a house of some of its sophomores to spend part of the night watching Minnesota face Notre Dame.

“We live, breathe, eat, sleep and drink hockey,” said senior defenseman Mac Bennett. “Anything that has to do with hockey, we do that.”

After practicing and playing for nearly two months, multiple players said the first break of the season revolved around laying low rather than going out together or spending time breaking down the play of the Golden Gophers — a team Michigan will see in February.

Bennett has often said the team’s chemistry has improved from last season, thanks in part to an increase in team bonding activities. The oft-mentioned paintball playing garners the most attention, but spontaneous and simple off-ice activities help the team on it.

“If you’re better friends off the ice, you’re going to trust the guys a lot more on the ice,” Compher said. “You’re going to go to battle for your friends more than you are for another kid.”

Some players, like Moffatt, took some time to see other friends and family. Over the weekend, Moffatt went to Ohio to go target shooting with his uncle.

But above all else, the break was much needed for the Wolverines to catch up on school work — or procrastinate on it.

“It’s nice to just be a normal college student,” Moffatt said. “I mean, it’s nice to just be able to get a nap in during the day.”

NOTES: Berenson said that he has decided which goalie would be starting this weekend against Nebraska-Omaha but wasn’t willing to release that information until later in the week. … Junior defenseman Mike Chiasson will start in place of injured freshman defenseman Kevin Lohan this weekend, according to Berenson. Chiasson played in Saturday’s game against Michigan Tech after Lohan injured his knee the night before. … As the Wolverines progress through the month of November growing mustaches for men’s awareness, one stands out thicker than the rest: assistant coach Brian Wiseman's. In his second year in that position, Wiseman played just 10 years earlier for Michigan.