SOUTH BEND — When it has the man advantage, the Michigan hockey team possesses the puck with the best of the CCHA. Its crisp, tape-to-tape passing has been a strength on the power play all season.
But the Wolverines’ shooting — or lack thereof — has plagued them.
This weekend was no different. In the split against No. 18 Notre Dame, Michigan registered one tally in 10 chances.
On Sunday afternoon, Michigan (5-7 CCHA, 9-9-0 overall) drew a power play 37 seconds into the second period. For a minute and 55 consecutive seconds, the five Wolverines on the ice continued to just pass the puck to each other.
They made things easy for the Fighting Irish’s penalty killers. With the puck on the outside of the box, Notre Dame only had to minimize the amount of offensive activity within the heart of the box.
Finally, with five seconds left in the power play, senior defenseman Chris Summers let a slap shot go from the top of the left circle. Notre Dame goaltender Mike Johnson easily stopped the puck.
It’s shots and scenarios like these that have haunted the Wolverines’ power play more than two months into the season.
“Most of our chances tonight were on the four-on-four or five-on-five,” junior forward Carl Hagelin said. “We didn’t get enough shots through. We had good movement and good puck protection, but we didn’t get those grade-A scoring chances (on the power play).”
Michigan’s power play currently sits in seventh place in the CCHA, and with a bulk of its conference schedule still looming after the holidays, the Wolverines will need to revamp their power play if they want to finish at the top of the conference.
“Most goals on the power play aren’t tic-tac-toe plays,” Hagelin said. “They’re shots from the point, just a tip. Today we got a couple of shots through, but we had no real tips or rebounds.”
Livin’ in the box: With just under nine minutes remaining in yesterday’s matchup against the Fighting Irish and Michigan down by a 2-0 margin, senior Brian Lebler took an elbowing penalty — his second infraction of the night.
The Wolverines committed nine penalties against Notre Dame on Sunday, almost a full period’s worth of penalty killing. Penalties are becoming dangerous for the team. Michigan is second only to Ferris State in the CCHA in total penalty minutes.
“I think we took four penalties in a row during the second period, and especially a five-on-three, that really hurt us,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We got no momentum out of that second period even though we started out pretty well.”
The team’s relationship with the sin bin grew even more familiar when the Wolverines garnered another four penalties in the final period.
The plethora of infractions ruined the momentum Berenson’s team was trying to create on the road in a hostile environment. And it eliminated any kind of continuity with players and line combinations — some players were exerting more energy on the penalty kill as others sat out for minutes on end, which caused Michigan to lose momentum.
“You take a penalty and it shuts everything down,” senior defenseman Steve Kampfer said. “You’re sitting back on your heels and reacting to them now.”