- Paul Sherman/Daily
By Erin Lennon, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 3, 2014
For the No. 10 Michigan hockey team, returning to Yost Ice Arena to defeat No. 12 Wisconsin was less about shattering sticks and more about snapping streaks.
With a win Friday, the Wolverines ended a four-game losing streak to the Badgers that dated back to November 2009. Just as important, though, were the individual slumps that ended.
The first by freshman forward Tyler Motte, who accumulated 10 points in the first half of the season, and registered his first point since Jan. 10 in Madison. It was his first goal since Nov. 22, ending an 11-week, nine-game dryspell. And Saturday, Motte began a new streak, finding twine for the second-straight day.
But when one freshman forward heated up, another cooled down. After a four-point outburst against Michigan State, JT Compher ended his hot streak Friday.
Still, Motte’s two tallies, combined with an assist from freshman defenseman Michael Downing, extended yet another important streak — a Michigan freshman has registered a point in 20 of the Wolverines’ 22 games this season.
“It was good for (Motte) to get out of his slump, because he is a player who the puck follows,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “He’s a smart player, so it’s been strange for him to have a drought like that.”
Minutes after Motte’s tally, junior forward Alex Guptill added his seventh goal of the season. His last goal had come at Yost, when Michigan finished up a homestand against Ferris State on Dec. 11 — 51 days before Friday’s contest.
After Friday’s game, Guptill spoke about getting his swagger back.
“I think I’ve been a little snake-bitten lately, but I feel like I’ve been getting my chances and I got one tonight, which was nice,” he said on Friday. “I think all the credit goes to my linemates. They are making me look good out there.”
Berenson had been waiting for Guptill to have a breakout game and was pleased with his performance. Now, though, it’s about continuing that streak of strong performances.
Junior forward Zach Hyman also got himself back on the board. Hyman — who created several scoring chances on his new line with senior forward Luke Moffatt and junior Phil Di Giuseppe against Michigan State — found twine for the first time since Dec. 1 against Ohio State before adding an assist Saturday.
With more experience under its belt than any other trio, Michigan’s third line was the difference against Wisconsin, accounting for four even-strength goals.
“Motte’s goal was a tribute to his line, too,” Berenson said. “His whole line was working. They had a good weekend.”
Moffatt notched the game-tying goal in the third period to give the senior five points, including four goals, in five career games against the Badgers. He also recorded the lone shootout goal to secure two points for the Wolverines.
“I told Luke it’s about time,” Berenson said. “He’s had trouble being consistent, so I hope he can get into a good groove right now. He’s got linemates he likes, and they’re playing hard.”
Sophomore forward Boo Nieves’s nearly saw his shot find the back of the net, which would have ended his months-long scoreless streak. Though his play has improved since being moved to the wing position, Nieves hasn’t tallied a goal since Oct. 12 against Rochester Institute of Technology.
The offense is gaining confidence, he said, which will be key as the Wolverines turn scoreless slumps into scoring streaks.
Of course, not everyone scored against a strong shot-blocking Badger defense. The power play went 0-for-8 and some of Michigan’s top scorers were left off the stat sheet.
During the waning minutes of overtime play Saturday, sophomore forward Andrew Copp broke away from a defender. For a moment, it looked as if he would secure his third extra-frame goal this season. He wound up and fired, but his shot went no further than Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel’s glove.
Copp was held without a point against the Badgers this weekend. The alternate captain was largely the only offense when the Wolverines slumped through December, scoring eight points — six goals and two assists — in seven games, including a goal in Madison and an assist in each game against the Spartans.
Still, Copp’s weekend is less of an indication that the Hobey Baker Award finalist is slumping than it is of a revived offense — one that need not rely on one player.
“I guess the more people that are scoring, the better,” Copp said. “I think I need to pick up my play a little bit right now, but it’s good. We need everyone chipping in.”