DETROIT — The pressure mounted on Adam Janecyk.
Less than 24 hours before his third consecutive start, against Michigan State in the consolation game of the Great Lakes Invitational, he had given up four goals in a game against Michigan Tech Saturday.
The defense in front of him made a habit of letting forwards slip through for uncontested shots.
Freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba was absent in Ufa, Russia to play for the United States at the U-18 Junior Championships, unable to carry the defense. His offense failed to control the puck efficiently and lacked the ability to score on Saturday.
And he was about to play a rival in front of a larger crowd at the Joe Louis Arena.
With freshmen goaltenders Steve Racine and Jared Rutledge struggling in their first games, Janecyk faced the challenge of turning around the struggling position. The junior goaltender delivered a strong performance between the pipes, as the Michigan hockey team went on to beat Michigan State, 5-2.
“It was nice to see us get some goals for our goalie,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We weren’t giving him much. Then we got some shots and got some goals and Janecyk hung in there. It wasn’t an easy game for a goalie; he had a lot of work the first two periods.”
Janecyk finished with 35 saves on the night on 37 shots, bringing his goals against average to 2.00 and his record to 2-1 now in just the 11th game of his career.
Although his performance against Michigan Tech wasn’t anything to write home about, the common denominator between both Saturday and Sunday’s game was that Janecyk has finally brought stability to unstable position.
In Sunday’s contest, Janecyk’s two goals both came on a series of bad “puck luck” in the first period. The first on a wrap around shot from the Spartans’ Tanner Sorenson, was the result of the puck slipping out behind the net after a scramble to control it. Janecyk was beat on his left side as Sorenson managed to corral the puck and slip it in before there was time to set up.
The second goal game after a tremendous glove save from Janecyk on a strong shot from Michigan State’s Matt Berry. The puck bounced off his glove, though, floating backwards onto sophomore forward Travis Lynch’s diving leg and into the goal.
But Janecyk remained resilient in the net, stopping an onslaught of 17 shots from the Spartans in the second period. There were no spectacular saves, just saves that should have been made.
After two periods, Janecyk had faced 30 shots, and he had yet to receive much help from his offense.
Yet nonetheless, the netminder had done enough to frustrate the man at the helm on the opposing bench.
“I thought we created good scoring chances,” said Michgian State coach Tom Anastos. “While I thought that was good, I’d be lying if I said I walked off the bench in second period and it didn’t concern me that we had more to show for.”
Janecyk’s play in the third period of Sunday’s contest remained steady, even as the Spartans attempted to capitalize on a 6-4 advantage in the waning minutes.
Although he hasn’t shined like his predecessor, Shawn Hunwick, Janecyk still has something that eluded the freshmen in front of him: a winning record.
With Trouba back, the expected return of junior defenseman Jon Merrill from a neck injury and three games of solid experience, Janecyk and the Wolverines have a chance to turn around a season that has not met expectations.
With 2013 approaching, Berenson still views goaltending as an important issue moving forward.
“I think it’s a lot of little things,” Berenson said. “But on the big things side, special teams have to be better, goals against have to come down, save percentages have to go up.”