As much time as Michigan’s hockey coaches spend drawing up the Xs and Os, they spend even more laying the foundation for recruiting success.
One of the reasons for such a deep investment in the search for new players is a perpetual battle with Canadian junior leagues, namely the Ontario Hockey League, for the top talents in the Great Lakes Region and in Ontario.
Over winter break, the Wolverines found this competition continues even after a player comes to Michigan when former sophomore Jason Bailey left Ann Arbor to sign with the OHL’s Ottawa 67s.
Bailey earned the respect of his teammates during his time at Michigan with his powerful skating and physical presence, but failed to score a point during the first half of the season.
Even when he went through tough times, Bailey kept a positive attitude and was well liked by his teammates.
“Off the ice, he was a good kid,” Michigan captain Matt Hunwick said. “I liked to have him around the locker room. He was pretty loose, and he was pretty fun to be around.
“On the ice, he struggled a little bit, so the game wasn’t as much fun as it used to be.”
The change seems sensible for Bailey, as his powerful style is better suited for the Canadian junior leagues. The OHL in particular has been a haven for power forwards, whereas the college game tends to cater to smaller finesse players.
Bailey has notched three points on two goals and an assist in his first three games with the 67s.
The move also brought Bailey closer to home, friends and family, as he hails from Nepean, Ont., which is less than 10 miles from Ottawa.
Quite a Turn-around: While Bailey couldn’t bounce back from his early season statistical struggles, sophomore Travis Turnbull has found his stride after notching just two points in Michigan’s first 17 games.
Since teaming up with senior T.J. Hensick and junior Kevin Porter on Michigan’s top line for the first time against Notre Dame on Dec. 8, Turnbull has compiled a four-game point streak, with three goals and three assists over that time.
During last week’s Great Lakes Invitational, Turnbull continued his hot streak, scoring a goal against both Michigan Tech in the Wolverines’ 4-1 semifinal victory, and another against Michigan State in Michigan’s 4-1 loss in the title game.
“I think that the chance to play with (Hensick) and Porter got me excited,” Turnbull said. “I just worked hard, a couple things went right and my confidence has built from there.”
With the eventual return of sophomore Andrew Cogliano, who will skate for Canada in today’s gold medal game at the World Junior Championships, Turnbull is aware his spot in the lineup may shift once again. But this time, Turnbull can rely on his newfound confidence to help him regardless of his linemates.
Over-engineered: During the GLI Championship game, both Michigan and Michigan State skated in new, lighter jerseys produced by Nike for holiday tournaments all over the country.
Releases from Nike advertised the jerseys spent 44 hours in wind-tunnel testing and were credited with allowing players to carry at least 200 pounds less during the course of a game.
Much to the chagrin of Nike representatives at the tournament and Michigan State’s athletic media relations personnel, the jerseys apparently had little effect in the Spartans’ dominant victory over the Wolverines.
“I didn’t really notice much of a difference,” Michigan State forward Bryan Lerg said.