After Michigan’s 8-5 win over Miami on Feb. 14, Michigan
coach Red Berenson wasn’t happy with his team’s
performance. It may seem unusual that the winning coach had a
reason to be upset after his team netted eight goals, but Berenson
realized the potential problem in his team’s defensive
play.

“I can’t tell you we’re happy with the way we
played,” Berenson said after the game. “We’re
not. How can you be happy when you give up five goals at
home?”

The players were aware of their coach’s
disappointment.

“Coach isn’t happy about giving up five goals in any
game,” freshman defenseman Matt Hunwick said. “It was
something we were aware of heading into the Notre Dame
weekend.”

The problem was that against the RedHawks — who led the
CCHA at the time — his defense allowed five goals, which
normally dooms a team.

Flash forward to this past weekend. Michigan traveled to South
Bend, where it allowed nine goals and dropped both contests. The
Miami game was a poor showing for the defense, but it was disguised
due to the win. After getting swept by Notre Dame, it emerged as
more of a problem.

“I think the last few weeks before Notre Dame, we were
letting up some goals and not playing our game,” junior
defenseman Brandon Rogers said. “But we were getting away
with it because we were scoring so many goals.”

Once the offense dried up last weekend, the goals that the
Wolverines allowed cost the team two wins and a chance to wrap up
the CCHA regular season title.

In the month of February, Michigan allowed 26 goals over eight
games. This included three five-goal games.

Playing on the road didn’t help Michigan’s chances.
The team has struggled to score goals on the road this season. As a
result, the defense can never really allow four and five
goals-against away from home. The toughness on defense was missing
in Friday’s 4-1 loss.

“Something about last weekend we weren’t prepared
for,” Hunwick said. “We didn’t come out with a
lot of intensity (on Friday). Our coverage was all right, but it
wasn’t good enough to win down there.”

With just two regular-season games left, time is running out,
but improvements can still be made before the postseason starts.
This weekend’s matchup with Michigan State will be a good
test for the Wolverines before the importance of every game
increases.

“We have to tighten up defensively or else we’re not
going to have a chance,” Rogers said. “Every team
we’re going to play is playing their best hockey of the
season.”

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