To put it mildly, the No. 3 Michigan hockey team was not pleased
after Friday’s 4-2 lost to Northeastern. The players
didn’t come to play, and the team — then-No. 1 in the
country, according to the Sept. 27 USCHO poll — was
embarrassed.

Ice Hockey
The No. 3 Michigan hockey team fell in rankings after losing its first regular-season game to Northeastern. (JEFF LEHNERT/Daily)

“The players weren’t satisfied, the coaches
weren’t satisfied, and it was a long 24 hours for
everyone,” coach Red Berenson said. “Getting the
messages across, looking at the video, showing the team the chances
and the mistakes, chances against. It could have been a lot worse
than it was. The score flattered us.”

But a nonconference loss can’t really hurt Michigan that
much, can it?

Wrong. According to Berenson, these games matter a great deal. A
loss looks bad for Michigan in head-to-head comparisons with
Northeastern down the road. But the Huskies aren’t expected
to make much noise in the Hockey East conference this season. More
importantly, nonconference losses like this one reflect badly on
the CCHA. Notre Dame, Ferris State and Ohio State all lost
nonconference games last weekend as well, which puts the CCHA
behind the rest of the country to start the season.

“They’re huge because they really do have a bearing
on how all the teams in our league are considered for the NCAA
tournament,” Berenson said.

Berenson added that the games in October count just as much as
the ones the team plays in March. Though he noted that Denver
— who won the national championship last season — was
not even expecting to making the tournament after its play in
December.

With the loss to Northeastern, Michigan also lost the No. 1
ranking that it held for two weeks before the season began.
Although Berenson was visibly upset about the loss on Friday, he
was not so upset about the loss of the No. 1 ranking.

“It’s so easy to talk about it, and it seems like it
becomes a topic of the media on a regular basis when you are ranked
high like that,” Berenson said. “And we’re not
unused to being ranked high. Our teams have been ranked high
before.”

With the bullseye off of its back, Michigan can focus on other
important things. After Friday’s loss, the Wolverines talked
a lot about making better decisions on the ice — both with
and without the puck. The Wolverines had a lot of pucks bounce over
their sticks and a lot of opportunities that weren’t
converted.

Senior captain Eric Nystrom had to watch the game from the
stands because of an injury to his ribs that occurred in practice
three weeks ago.

Both Nystrom and Berenson said that the team would try to use
this game as a stepping stone. Berenson said he wasn’t sure
how he would judge this weekend’s games just yet, but he said
that the players knew that they had to get better. The Wolverines
have spent the week working on 5-on-2 and 5-on-5 drills. Berenson
said that playing .500 hockey is obviously unacceptable, and the
team has worked this week to improve before it gets back on the
ice.

“I’ll tell you a month from now if (the loss on
Friday made it) a good weekend,” Berenson said. “It
might have been a great weekend for us, depending on how we respond
to it over the next month.”

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