Every year before hockey season starts, like any other coach, Michigan’s Red Berenson closely examines the upcoming schedule.

And like any other coach, Berenson insists that the games within the confines of Yost Ice Arena, in front of a home crowd, are chalked up as must-wins.

“You probably say, ‘We’ve got to be at least .500 on the road, and we have to win all our home games,’ ” Berenson said. “How many teams win all their home games? Not very many. But the odd team does.”

But through four games at home this season, Michigan (12-11-1 CCHA, 17-15-1 overall) was operating in an odd fashion, but not in the way Berenson would have hoped for.

The Wolverines opened their home slate this season with a 3-2 win over Niagara. But they dropped the next four at Yost, with two losses at the hands of No. 1 Miami (Ohio), one loss to intrastate rival Michigan State and even a loss to CCHA basement dweller Bowling Green.

For junior forward Louie Caporusso, the losses at home to Miami were two of the most heartbreaking this season.

“We’ve went into (Miami’s) rink and have always given them trouble in their rink, and they’ve always had trouble coming here and getting wins,” Caporusso said. “I don’t think freshmen on the team really understood how desperate they were to get a win against us like that.”

It was a sense of urgency that the Wolverines weren’t familiar with at the time, but now understand completely.

The 1-4 record at home was the worst Michigan has ever experienced through five home games in Berenson’s 26-year tenure.

And despite the rough start, Berenson contends that the team’s performance wasn’t due to a lack of confidence.

“Michigan’s never been a team that’s had trouble with confidence at home,” Berenson said. “You look at our home record the last two years, 10 years, 20 years, we’re as good as anybody. We have a great environment here, and I think our team has really thrived on playing at home in the past.”

But as two of the nation’s elite programs — now-No. 2 Wisconsin and Minnesota — came to Yost for the annual College Hockey Showcase on Nov. 27 and 28, Michigan showed a different kind of fervor that had been missing in front of the home crowd all season.

The Wolverines outscored the Badgers and Gophers 7-2 in what Berenson calls the team’s “most complete effort” of the season.

“It got us playing at the level at home we wanted,” Berenson said. “And it gave us results.”

Michigan took those results, against the country’s elite talent, and has turned it into a 6-0-1 run at home since then. After dropping the contest to Bowling Green on Nov. 20, the Wolverines have only given up four goals at Yost Ice Arena.

And though they may not have had the same positive results on the road — the Wolverines have lost their last five away games — the ability to win at home will be imperative if they plan on securing a bye in the first round of the CCHA Tournament.

Michigan takes on fourth-place Northern Michigan this weekend with 10th-place Notre Dame waiting in the wings for a home-and-home series next weekend. If the Wolverines have any hope of securing the fourth and final bye in the conference tournament, they have to win out, and that means three games in front of a home crowd at Yost.

It’s a position of urgency. But for Caporusso, that’s all this team could ask for.

“Desperation is huge when you’re playing, and these teams coming in are desperate too,” Caporusso said. “Notre Dame and Northern Michigan are desperate. This is desperate hockey. It’s playoff hockey, and this is where everyone needs to come and play, especially at home.

“And when you’re playing in front of a crowd like Yost, there’s no excuse not to win every game.”

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