Just as quickly as it found its stride, the Michigan hockey team’s power-play unit lost all of its momentum last weekend.
Against Ohio State, the Wolverines made due on just one of 13 total power play opportunities. By anyone’s standards, that’s a frustrating weekend, but for Michigan, which boasted a 24.3-percent conversion rate with a man advantage, the unit’s output was dismal.
But the weekend’s less-than-stellar performance may have had more to do with what the Buckeyes did than what Michigan didn’t.
“Yeah, our power play is no secret,” freshman Max Pacioretty said. “I mean, they’ve been watching the film, so we’ve got to change it up. We’re working on changing it up right now. We’re getting it going. We’re going to start working on it more in practice, I think.”
Ohio State, when working with a man disadvantage, crashed down on the Wolverines’ potent forwards, leaving defensemen like freshman Chad Langlais alone at the blue line. Langlais, who has yet to tally a goal this season, couldn’t convert his opportunities into goals. His shots were often blocked by the Buckeye defense.
“One of our concerns is teams are doing a better job of blocking shots,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “So, we’ve been working with our D, trying to get their shots through or make smarter plays, so they’re not getting their shots blocked. We’re getting plenty of attempts from our D, but they’re not getting through to the net.”
Berenson said he doesn’t care if his defensemen score goals, but they need to create scoring chances for the forwards. Langlais and the other blue liners – only defensemen Mark Mitera and Steve Kampfer have notched goals this season – need to work on getting the puck past the opposing defenders and to the Michigan forwards.
“Who’s open? The defense is open,” Berenson said. “So we get the puck back to the D, we try to get (the forwards) up to the net and then we have to be able to get the puck through. Those are the things we have to improve on.”
Do the shuffle: Last season, Berenson decided to try now-sophomore defenseman Chris Summers at forward. The Milan native impressed at his new position and stayed up front for more than half the season.
Berenson, looking for an offensive spark, spoke to Summers after the Wolverines’ weekend series split with Ohio State about trying out the position again.
“He’s a guy that could jumpstart a line,” Berenson said. “He can give us that forechecking speed. You know, when we put him up there last year, he just gave our team a lot of energy, a lot of speed.
“He’s a high-end player as a forward. I think our defense is at a point where maybe we can play a game or two without him. He’s so versatile, and it’s just one weekend, but we’re going to watch him.”
Neither Berenson nor Summers could say how long the switch will last, but both seemed excited for this weekend against Bowling Green.
“It’s fun (playing forward),” Summers said. “There’s still a few more tweaks to work out, and we’ll see what happens.”
Summers will practice all week at the position, and he said the thing he’ll need to work on most is getting used to the additional skating required of forwards.
Notes: After sitting out a month with a knee injury suffered in a Nov. 5 practice, freshman forward Louie Caporusso will skate during the Wolverines’ pregame skate Saturday. Berenson said Caporusso should be game-ready for the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 28. . Freshman Max Pacioretty picked up CCHA Rookie of the Week honors after his two-goal, three-point performance against Ohio State.