The emergence of Zach Hyman

Paul Sherman/Daily
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By Jeremy Summitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 5, 2014

One month ago, Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson was trying to dig his team out of a four-game losing streak. He sat down to tweak his lines, and ended up finding an answer. His name is Zach Hyman.

The answer has been there all season. He’s not in the shadow of his teammates and not always on the score sheet, but the junior forward has earned his start in all 22 games.

Berenson says Hyman is one of the hardest-working players on the Wolverines’ roster, and that much has been evident during the team’s current four-game winning streak.

The streak began on Jan. 23 against Michigan State. That day, Berenson decided to move sophomore forward Boo Nieves from his traditional center spot. Hyman replaced Nieves by making the move from wing to center, and it has worked out just as Berenson might have hoped.

“Back at center, he’s more mature, more responsible and more confident at both ends of the ice,” Berenson said.

With Hyman centering the third line between freshman Tyler Motte and senior Luke Moffatt, the performance of all three players has quickly escalated. Hyman and his linemates combined for four goals in two games against Wisconsin last weekend and supplied high energy in the offensive zone.

“We’ve been working down low on the opponents real well,” Moffatt said. “Even in the State weekend, we didn’t produce on the score sheet, but we did have a lot of good in-zone offense on them, and a lot of sustained pressure down low and cycling.”

During the two-game sweep of Michigan State, Hyman had several chances that refused to hit twine. The red iron around the netting acted as more of a stoplight than anything when two point-blank opportunities from the slot clinked off the post in the first period. Even then, with frustration inevitably creeping in, Hyman remained composed.

More than a week later, he crashed the net in the second period of last Friday’s 3-1 victory over Wisconsin and jammed home a rebound for his first goal in seven contests.

“He’s getting chances, and now it seems his line has got some chemistry,” Berenson said. “I’d like to see Zach keep hammering pucks at the net, and I think the more he does, the more he’ll score.”

Hyman played center for the majority of his youth hockey career, and he stayed there for the beginning of his freshman campaign. But his defensive inconsistencies pushed him away from center and to the wing.

Hyman has progressed well throughout his career, gradually proving why the NHL’s Florida Panthers drafted him in 2010. His teammates now label him one of the better two-way players on the team. The junior’s speed and ability to play both high and low in the defensive zone have been trademarks to his success.

“Red preaches defense, and that’s what I’ve been trying to get better at ever since I got here as a freshman,” Hyman said. “I think it’s improved greatly from the start of my freshman year to the start of this year.”

He’s found his way back in a familiar niche as a center man, and it’s been beneficial for all aspects of the Wolverines’ game. He looks comfortable there but says he’ll play whichever position Berenson finds most fitting.

This week, Berenson called Hyman the catalyst of his line, and he’s earned that praise. Not much about his game is flashy, but he grinds the opposition in the offensive zone and seems to get to the right places at the right times. With just two goals in 22 games, his emergence doesn’t mean filling up the stat sheet every night, but that’s just fine by him.

Michigan already has proven goal scorers, at least recently. The Wolverines need Hyman to supply what he’s been doing for the past four games — and all season, really. They need his work ethic to shine through, because that effort can go a long way in bringing out the best in players around him.

Hyman’s a big believer that when you work hard, good things will happen. He’s back to working as a center, and great results have been coming Michigan’s way ever since.