As this season has worn on, the Michigan hockey team’s goals have understandably changed a considerable amount.
According to coach Red Berenson, the Wolverines “can forget about first place and second place (in the CCHA),” but a first-round bye is still in the picture. The Wolverines are currently in second-to-last in the standings, nine points behind Alaska, which is the last team that would receive a bye if the season ended today.
In the CCHA playoffs, the top five teams receive first-round byes, the top four teams are given a home series in addition to the bye, while the fifth-ranked team starts on the road and the ninth-, 10th- and 11th-ranked teams play the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-ranked teams, respectively, in the tournament’s opening round.
“We’re trying to get into a playoff attitude now,” Berenson said Tuesday. “We’re not cruising into the final weeks of the schedule. We’re clawing our way into the final weeks, and that’s how we need to approach it.”
Junior forward Luke Moffatt knows that peaking at the right time could allow the Wolverines to make a run for the Mason Cup.
“That’s what it’s coming down to now,” Moffatt said. “We’re going to have to play really well in that CCHA Tournament and fight for the win there.”
The team took major strides toward a more successful second half of the season in its split against Lake Superior State last weekend. But a potential peak that could help the Wolverines extend their season might still be far off.
“Obviously, we haven’t even come close to peaking,” Berenson said.
Berenson cited that Alaska has managed to put together some momentum. The Nanooks have won four straight — two over Michigan and two over Notre Dame, which currently holds a share of first place in the league with Western Michigan.
“We’ve got 10 games left — there are 30 points out there,” Berenson said. “If we don’t get half of those points, we’re not going to make it. We’ve got to play way over .500 hockey. … Top five is possible.”
“THE TRIP FROM HELL”: Long trips after road losses are never a pleasant ordeal.
But the overnight commute back from Sault Ste. Marie was especially forgettable for Michigan.
The team bus rolled out of Lake Superior State’s snowy campus at 10 p.m. on Saturday, and a trip that typically takes five hours took well over seven to complete. It was 5:30 a.m. by the time the Wolverines finally made it back to Yost Ice Arena, having traversed through hazardous driving conditions that prompted Berenson to refer to it as “the trip from hell.”
“Did we enjoy the (opening weekend of the) NHL?” Berenson deadpanned. “I watched my first game (Monday) night.”
HAIL TO THE WHO?: After each series sweep, the Wolverines have a tradition of singing The Victors in the locker room.
Last year, they were able to do it six times. But the Lakers’ win on Saturday night kept this season’s count at zero.
“I told our team after the game, ‘Christ, I’m going to forget the words if we keep doing this,’ ” Berenson said. “It’s important. We don’t rave about it, but that’s an important part of the locker-room mentality. How about all the incoming freshmen? They’re going to forget the words.”