Out of all the numbers to show up on the Michigan hockey team’s box score following its 6-3 win over Bentley last Friday night, the largest one is perhaps the least impressive for coach Red Berenson.
Falcon netminder Branden Komm faced 56 Wolverine shots over the course of the game, and let in six goals. And according to Berenson, the team’s problem lies in the math of it all.
The majority of Michigan’s shots last weekend came in a flurry in the third period as it looked to solidify its lead over the Falcons. Though it did pay off for the Wolverines — Michigan scored half of its goals in that final frame — Berenson doesn’t think the shot chart effectively reflects the team’s effort.
“Part of our game is getting shots through,” Berenson said. “If you look at our shot chart, you’ll see half our shots never get to the net. Why is that? They’re either blocked or they miss the net. It’s hard to get shots through.”
Aside from puck luck deciding which shots make it past the goalie, the most important part of turning shots into goals comes less from play on the perimeter and more concentrated activity around the crease.
Berenson is known for preaching a blue-collar work ethic to his players. Its tenants are simple — get the puck to the net anyway you can. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it certainly shouldn’t try to be “too cute.”
Berenson starts drumming that message in as early as possible, and it’s likely the Wolverines will get that message every day of practice for the rest of the season. For as much rhetoric as the team hears, it’s still important for them to keep it in mind, especially on the eve of conference play.
“Getting pucks deep and them getting the puck to the net, that’s always the best way to score,” said sophomore forward Alex Guptill. “When I score, I don’t score too many pretty goals. You have to get in your mind as a player when you go out there (you shouldn’t) try to do too much.”
It’s a particularly important message for the freshmen to hear, considering that younger players have a tendency to become overexcited any time the puck touches their tape.
This kind of hard-working offense is partly coachable, but mostly learned through experience. Though the team regularly practices how to handle the puck in the opponent’s zone, there’s only so much that can teach them.
It’s lucky, then, that there’s a captain who exemplifies the kind of grind-it-out work ethic that translates shots into goals.
Senior forward A.J. Treais is perhaps an ideal prototype of a Berenson blue-collar worker, as a player who usually has luck finding twine. He already leads the team in shots on goal (18) and though that doesn’t hold much stock considering the Wolverines have only played three games, he’s expected to hold steady as the season progresses.
“You’ve already seen him twice this season where the other team has scored and A.J. comes back the next shift and scored to kind of take away the momentum of that goal,” Berenson said. “He’s going to be a go-to player and he already is.”