On Hockey

 

Well you’re the real tough cookie with the long history,

Of breaking little hearts, like the one in me.

That’s OK lets see how you do it.

Put up your dukes, lets get down to it!

Hit me with your best shot!

Why don’t you hit me with your best shot!

Hit me with your best shot!

Fire away!

— Pat Benatar (1980)

Reggie Miller, Lee Harvey Oswald, that girl from Traffic, Elmer Fudd and a golfer with a last name McGavin have all made shooting — in its various forms — famous. But the most prolific shooter on the University of Michigan campus, with apologies to basketball’s Dion Harris and the entire club rifle team, has got to be Michigan hockey forward Jeff Tambellini. The junior sniper shoots more than Allen Iverson in a pick-up game.

In all seriousness though, Tambellini has “fired away” on a whopping 174 shots in 36 games for the Wolverines this season. That’s 59 more shots than junior Brandon Kaleniecki, who is second on the team. Needless to say, Tambellini’s 174 shots led the conference and might have even led the nation. (Unfortunately, not all conferences keep track of shots.)

And Tambellini’s “best shots” — the ones that have hit the net — have “broken the hearts” of opposing goalies 18 times this season. Those 18 tallies put him second to just T.J. Hensick’s 22 on the Wolverine stat sheet.

At the other end of the spectrum is defenseman Tim Cook. The sophomore (nickname Cookie, see Benatar) shot the puck just 14 times in 34 games this season. That’s 36 fewer shots than defensive-minded forward Mike Brown took. In other words, Cook is the anti-Tambellini. But that is not to say Cook hasn’t contributed to Michigan’s success this year. Michigan coach Red Berenson said that Cook — despite his microscopic shot total and zero points in the regular season — was one of the team’s most improved players during the first half of the season.

“He’s not an offensive player,” Berenson said. “He doesn’t have a history of being an offensive player. Anything he does offensively is a bonus, but he’s got to be rock-solid defensively. He’s a physical defensive-defenseman, and that’s the role he has to play.”

Cook knows and accepts his role on the team as a “real tough Cookie” and as a defensive-defenseman. Still, he knows that offensive production — and more specifically just taking shots — is something that he’s got to work on.

“Dropping a shoulder, getting around somebody and putting a shot on net is something that the coaches are definitely stressing,” Cook said. “But if I can just keep working that, hopefully, it will show up.”

It seems like Tambellini has worked on it plenty. On Feb. 4, against Michigan State, Tambellini fired off 11 shots, scoring one of Michigan’s two goals. Cook fired 12 shots in Michigan’s first 32 games.

“If Tambellini ever gets in the zone that I think he can potentially be in, as a dominant college hockey player, he’ll be scoring every game,” Berenson said.

Cook, on the other hand, just wants to score in a game. The sophomore still hasn’t lit the lamp for Michigan in 58 career games. But give Cook a break, he was born four years after Benatar came out with her No. 9 hit of 1980.

If and when Cook does get that first collegiate goal, he says he’ll try to play it cool and hide his excitement.

“I’d probably to try to keep (my goal celebration) low key,” Cook said. “I’d try to act like I’ve been there before, even though I haven’t.”

Though he hasn’t scored in a game, the Ottawa Senators fifth-round draft pick does score in practice on occasion. And if he scores when the players are messing around after practice, Cook, at times, will celebrate creatively.

After he scored on Michigan goalie Al Montoya in a breakaway drill a few weeks ago, he enthusiastically slid forward on his butt while pretending to paddle with his stick like he was kayaking down the ice.

Last season, Cook played in just 24 games, splitting time with then-junior Nick Martens as the sixth and seventh defensemen in the rotation. But this season, Cook was just one of seven Wolverines to play in each of Michigan’s first 34 games. And while there were zeros next to his name on the score sheet, he managed solid a plus-seven rating while on the ice. Cook knows that no matter how much he improves, he’ll never have the same offensive capabilities that Tambellini has been blessed with.

“I don’t think I could even be jealous of him,” Cook said. “With his talent and skill level, and with his shot, there’s no way he shouldn’t be taking so many shots a game.”

Berenson, like Cook, recognizes Tambellini’s offensive talent and just wants Tambellini to keep “firing away.”

“If Tambellini is going down the ice with Cook on a two-on-one, it wouldn’t make sense to give Cook the puck,” Berenson said. “I would tell him to look Cook off and shoot the puck. Tambellini is the scorer, he should shoot the puck.”

No problem there.

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