Throughout January, Michigan fans became accustomed to the Andrew Cogliano the Edmonton Oilers saw when they drafted him with the 25th overall pick of the 2005 NHL draft. After returning from the World Junior Championships, the sophomore had gone on a tear, dancing through defenses for five goals in seven games and he has now extended his scoring streak to career-best 12 games.
But against Western Michigan this weekend, Cogliano’s magic tricks were fewer and further in between, as the Broncos’ more physical style of play forced Cogliano to adjust his game. And while this must have been frustrating for the budding star, Cogliano took it in stride as another step to prepare him for the future.
“You are playing against guys who are a lot older,” Cogliano said. “They play really physical, and it’s kind of an (American Hockey League) style … (which) will only make you better.”
Despite struggling to create the chances that he did throughout January, Cogliano still managed to find the score sheet twice this weekend, notching his 19th goal on Friday night and his 17th assist on Saturday.
One reason Cogliano was held to just two points was his role as a defenseman on Michigan’s top power-play line. During Friday’s game, the Wolverines went on the power play nine times, and Cogliano spent a significant portion of that time on the blue line.
Learning to play the point on special teams is a new experience for Cogliano, who has developed a sniper shot from mid and long range since arriving at Michigan last fall. On Michigan’s first man advantage Friday, he knocked in the game’s first goal.
But before he could take advantage of any confidence built from his goal, Cogliano misplayed a puck on Michigan’s second power play. The miscue gave Western Michigan leading scorer Mark Letestu the opportunity to walk in alone on Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer for a short-handed tally.
“When you get used to playing forward all the time and then you go out there on defense it’s tough,” Cogliano said. “It’s too bad I made a stupid mistake and it cost us a goal, but I think I am doing more right things than wrong.”
Instead of dwelling on his error, Cogliano concentrates on his positive contributions to maintain the confidence necessary to serve his team from the blue line.
“Thankfully, things haven’t happened like that for me often,” Cogliano said. “I just need to think about defensive hockey and make sure that I’m not pinching in too much.”
Cogliano’s ability to play in multiple roles has drawn the admiration of his teammates. Even in playing more minutes than he is used to, teammates know they can rely on him to continue playing tough.
“(Cogliano)’s in pretty good shape,” alternate captain Jason Dest said. “He a good athlete, and he doesn’t really get tired out there. He’s always playing well out there.”
Instead of taking credit for himself, Cogliano believes that his team’s ability to handle Western Michigan’s physical presence with some level of collective physicality themselves helped to ease the load on any individual players.
“I think we handled (the physical nature) pretty well,” Cogliano said. “We throw a lot of body checks too. We knew we had to counteract them because they are a physical team, and we knew that if we played physical too, we could come out on top.”