It’s not always easy to impress Michigan coach Red Berenson.
Thursday night, after the No. 3 Michigan hockey team’s 5-4 overtime loss to Rochester Institute of Technology, you’d be hard pressed to find him with a positive thing to say.
Friday night was slightly different. Now that that the series had been salvaged with a 7-2 win on Friday, Berenson found more things to be happy about. Seven different things, specifically.
With each of the seven goals coming from a different player — players from different positions, representing each of the four classes — it was hard for Berenson not to be impressed with the depth the team showed, especially considering that Michigan was coming off an embarrassing loss.
“It’s good, we need a lot of guys to chip in,” Berenson said. “I think we’re going to score by committee. We’ll obviously have a leading scorer, whoever that ends up being, but I think we’ve got a lot of guys to contribute”
It never hurts to make Berenson smile a little. So, how about two goals coming from players who hardly had any ice time last season?
Sophomore forward Andrew Sinelli and senior forward Lindsay Sparks spent a combined 39 games as scratches last year, watching as their teammates piled on point after point.
Friday, though, they finally padded their own statistics.
Sinelli notched his first career goal midway through the final period, and got the loudest cheers of the night from the fans at Yost. Sparks scored just over two minutes later to put the Wolverines up 7-2, a score that would hold for the rest of the night.
Berenson said playing Sparks and Sinelli just made sense. After Thursday’s defeat, Sparks was one of three Wolverines who walked away with a positive plus-minus rating.
The coaches took clear notice of that.
“(Thursday) night, we had 12 forwards dressed and nine of them were minus,” Berenson said. “We’re not going to win games if all our forwards are minus.”
Sinelli replaced fellow sophomore Zach Hyman, who had several close looks on goal on Thursday on the second line. Though Hyman’s negative plus/minus rating ultimately factored into Berenson’s decision to scratch him, the coaches also saw the scratch as an opportunity to give Sinelli — a very inexperienced player — a little more ice team before conference play starts.
“Everybody has to know that you need to play well if you’re going to stay in the lineup,” Berenson said. “Sinelli showed us he can play, and good for him.”
It’s uncertain how long it will take for a leading scorer to emerge out of this year’s squad, and the competition to dress will only become fiercer after some injured players that include freshman forward Justin Selman and junior defenseman Jon Merrill, return to the lineup.
Until that day, the Wolverines are happy to increase their depth and take what they can get offensively.
But that doesn’t mean the team is surprised when goals come from unexpected players.
“It’s not really surprising, but it’s nice to see,” said senior defenseman Lee Moffie. “We have a really skilled team. There’s guys that play on the fourth line here that on other teams would be top-two line guys. You expect that here. There’s a lot of guys with skill to get the puck in the net.”