Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson isn’t usually one to mince words or exaggerate things.
So when he called Michigan’s weekend opponent, No. 8 Notre Dame, “scary,” it was easy to tell he doesn’t consider this game a cakewalk.
Not that the 12th-ranked Wolverines consider any CCHA game to be easy, especially considering their most recent decision: a 7-2 blowout loss to Michigan State.
“This is going to be our biggest challenge,” Berenson said. “Notre Dame is really good. I just watched their game against Boston College and they were scary. It was an eye-opener.”
The Fighting Irish’s 3-1 loss to the reigning national champion was much closer than the score indicates, as Notre Dame stayed within one goal of the Eagles until Boston College scored an empty-net goalie the waning seconds of the game. Berenson knows if the Irish were able to hang that close to the No. 1 team in the country, then it could be a rude awakening for Michigan (2-3-1 CCHA, 4-4-1 overall) on Thursday night.
“They’re a real good team, probably the best team in our league,” Berenson said. “They will be the best team that we will have played this year and we have to be ready for that.”
Berenson gave a laundry list of what makes Notre Dame such a threat, including work ethic, puck movement and commitment to defense, just to name a few. In other words, the main thing that makes this squad so unnerving is that it possesses all the qualities that the Wolverines have severely lacked as of late.
By now, enough has been said about the team’s sputtering that the Wolverines are ready to move on as soon as possible. And what better way to quickly recover from a painful Saturday night loss than by cutting the week of practice short, thanks to a Thursday-Friday series?
After coming off what many players consider to be the worst loss of their hockey careers, at first glance it might seem like the Wolverines could benefit from all the practice they could get. In reality, a quick turnaround to purge the lingering negative emotions from last week is an even better remedy, junior defenseman Mac Bennet said.
“The anger that we have from that loss (against Michigan State) can definitely transfer into a positive,” Bennett said. “There’s tons of things that you can pull out of watching video and work on in practice. It would be nice to have another day, but we’re going to be excited to play on Thursday, especially against … a good team.”
The weekend isn’t important just for getting Michigan back on track, though. As the number of home series starts to dwindle (after this one, the Wolverines have just two more full series at Yost until March), the team feels an increasing sense of urgency to nab all six points while they still have the home-ice advantage.
But that doesn’t mean that the drive for all the weekend’s points overshadows the importance of taking the series one game at a time.
“Being at Yost is like having a seventh man on the ice,” said senior forward Kevin Lynch. “These points are huge (but) we can’t look at it as six points right now. Once we get the job done on (Thursday), then we’ll look at (Friday).”