- Paul Sherman/Daily
By Michael Laurila, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 12, 2012
In the first game of the Michigan hockey team’s series with Northern Michigan two weeks ago, senior forward A.J. Treais was the hero when he notched a goal with six-tenths of a second left, sending the game into overtime.
And after the overtime period turned into a shootout, Treais was the only player for either team to score on his penalty shot. The lone goal completed an improbable comeback, after the Wolverines scored three third-period goals to send the game to overtime.
Though they left Marquette with just two points, Treais’ two goals and one assist on the weekend were critical to the little success they found in the Upper Peninsula.
“You can tell when A.J. shoots the puck, he shoots to score,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson after Michigan’s 4-3 loss to Northern Michigan. “We’re not getting shots like that from anyone else.”
This past weekend, Treais’ hot streak continued during the Wolverines home-and-home series with Michigan State. In Michigan’s 5-1 victory on Friday night in Ann Arbor, he tallied two assists, for a total of five on the year. A day later, when the Wolverines were throttled 7-2 by the Spartans, the Bloomfield Hills, Mich. native notched his eighth goal of the season.
Treais’ high numbers aren’t a big surprise either. Last season he finished with 42 points, putting him tied for second, just one point shy of then-freshman forward Alex Guptill and then-senior forward David Wohlberg. His current pace sets him on target to finish the regular season with 52 points.
“He’s been a stud,” said senior defenseman Lee Moffie. “I’ve been in his class and seen his skill set and his talent in the past three years and it’s always been there. You’ve seen flashes of it in the past when he gets hot. It just seems like right now he’s putting it all together and he’s leading this team by example and it’s been pretty special to watch.”
As of Monday, Treais is tied for second in points in the CCHA, behind only Miami (Ohio) freshman standout Riley Barber. However, his average of .89 goals per game is .29 more than anybody else in the conference. He has averaged 1.44 points per game, which is also good enough for the conference lead.
And he attributes his success this season to a new mindset.
“I guess just putting pucks on net and not being too unselfish,” he said. “In years past, I always made the extra pass and this year I’m trying to put pucks on net. I figure if I put five shots on net a game, hopefully one of them will go in.”
They have been going in, and not only does he lead the CCHA in both points per game and goals per game, but he leads the entire NCAA in goals scored and goals per game. His offensive production has foreshadowed the success of the entire offense, as the team’s 3.50 goals per game in conference play are tied with Notre Dame for first.
“I think (he) gives our offense a leader,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Our offense has been pretty good and that’s important. But look where we are. We’re a .500 team. …A.J. is doing what he can do, but we have to be better defensively.”
Berenson has stressed the defensive issues — especially during the Wolverines last four games where they have allowed 20 goals — are not just a result of poor play from the defensemen, but also the forwards keeping track of their men and maintaining a strong forecheck.
Despite the forward corps defensive struggles, Treais’ flurry of early season points might be due to his new found duty of running the point on the power play. After junior defenseman Jon Merrill was sidelined Oct. 9 with an injured vertebrae during the Wolverines’ exhibition with Windsor, Treais has had to fill in on the point. His two power play goals are a direct result of his new job and success he’s had.
Prior to this season, Treais had always been a quiet contributor for a Michigan team that was never short of strong leadership — forward Luke Glendening wore the captain’ s ‘C’ the previous two seasons during his junior and senior campaigns. When Treais was named team captain this offseason, he was thrust into a leadership role that had been unfamiliar to him.
“He’s been unbelievable this year, and he’s the most valuable player on the team for us right now,” Moffie said.