Red-hot Wolverines ready for road rivalry game

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By Zach Shaw, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 15, 2015

Red Berenson isn’t buying the hype. Not yet, at least.

The Michigan hockey coach has guided his team to the nation’s third-best record (10-2) since Nov. 1, and it now sits alone alone atop the Big Ten after sweeping then-No. 9 Minnesota last weekend.

But as the 19th-ranked Wolverines (4-1 Big Ten, 12-7 overall) travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State (2-3, 7-10-1) Friday, Berenson knows that his team is only as good as its latest practice.

“I think they got some confidence,” Berenson said. “But I don’t want us to be overconfident. We still have to do a lot of things better than we did last week. We’re in a good place. We looked a lot better today than we did yesterday, which we’ll need for Friday.”

The reason for Berenson’s hesitation, in part, is that Michigan has struggled mightily on the road, where it is 1-5. Its last four losses have come by a combined 18-6.

Michigan has a golden opportunity to buck that trend, however, against an Ohio State team that is a paltry 2-6 at home.

“We’ve got to play better than we have on the road,” Berenson said. “It’s confidence, it’s preparation and then there’s a level of mental toughness that has to be there. There’s going to be guys that have a chance to make a difference and they have to be ready to do that.

“It might be me on a blocked shot, it might be you with an opportunity to score or take a hit, it might be a second effort backcheck, but we have to play with that second-effort attitude. If we do that, then we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

On paper, the Wolverines have a clear advantage over the Buckeyes. With the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense, Michigan should find the back of the net against Ohio State, which has allowed 16 goals in its last three Big Ten games.

The Wolverines are scoring 5.8 goals per game in conference play, including eight goals in their previous matchup with the Buckeyes and 11 goals in two games against a Minnesota team that touts eight NHL draftees on the blue line.

Still, Berenson would much rather see a defensive struggle from his team.

“We’ve only played a handful of games,” Berenson said of the success in conference games. “You aren’t going to be able to keep that scoring going the rest of the way. You might get that when everything’s going your way, but mostly not. I’m expecting this will be a one-goal game.”

A one-goal game would be a stark contrast to the teams’ previous meeting Dec. 5, in which Michigan came back from an early deficit to win 8-3. The Wolverines were clicking on all cylinders then, too, but Berenson doesn’t read too much into it.

“It was a game where the puck went in for us and the power play took over for us,” Berenson said. “We scored four power-play goals in that game, so that’s not something you can count on very often.

“We measured up against them well in that game, and we’re excited to head down there, but it’s their home ice and they’ll be ready. We need determination. We need the same passion and confidence that we showed here last week.”

Michigan has been among the nation’s best the past 10 weeks. Now it has an opportunity to take its show on the road.