Faceoffs are an aspect of hockey that don’t get much attention – the fans often don’t notice them unless the official takes too long to drop the puck. But Michigan’s players don’t underestimate their importance, particularly during the playoffs, when everything is magnified.

Michigan alternate captain John Shouneyia pointed out that winning or losing a faceoff can be the difference between getting a scoring chance or not.

“If you do a good job on the faceoffs, you’re going to have a good night all around the rink,” freshman center Andrew Ebbett said.

Both players said they take time after practice or before games to work on faceoffs. Shouneyia, the Wolverines’ top-line center, who takes many of the team’s draws, said that he hasn’t found a single strategy that works. He added that coming away with the puck is about anticipation and adjusting to the opposing player. Ebbett said a player’s hands, feet and eyes can give clues about what he is going to do on the faceoff.

“I almost think it’s more of a mental thing, for me anyways,” Ebbett said. It is about “just being ready.”

The freshman also said experience is a factor, and that he has relied on Shouneyia for tips this season.

“He’s helped me out a lot in that department,” Ebbett said. “I sit beside him in the lockerroom, and I always talk to him before the games, or else between the periods, and see what he thinks which guy is doing what. He has played against some guys for four years, so he knows exactly what they’re going to do, which way their hands are and what way they’re going to bring it back.”

The CCHA implemented a new 15-second faceoff rule before this season in order to speed up games, but Shouneyia said he doesn’t think the rule is being tightly enforced during the playoffs – which is fine with him.

“I’d rather have time to come in and square up,” Shouneyia said. “The rule, if you’re late on a line change or something, can kind of throw you off. As a centerman, you’d rather have time to set up your guys and get yourself in position.”

A non-issue: Much has been written about the abuse that Michigan goalie Al Montoya has taken this season from opposing teams. And last Friday night against Bowling Green was no exception.

The freshman was poked and bumped repeatedly after the whistle, drawing the ire of Michigan players and coaches.

“Anytime you see your goalie or any of your teammates get hit like that, it pisses you off and you don’t want it to happen to anyone,” defenseman Danny Richmond said.

But Michigan coach Red Berenson doesn’t expect the treatment to continue this weekend at Joe Louis Arena.

“We sent in the tape (of what happened this weekend to the CCHA), and we’ll obviously talk to the league,” Berenson said. “I don’t think that’s an issue. It’s a good question, but if it happens, it would be a disappointment.”

A new look: Shouneyia was one of many Wolverines who sported the beginnings of a playoff goatee yesterday. It’s a more traditional move from the last two seasons, when players went blonde for the playoffs.

“We’re 0-2 at that, so we figured it was time for a change,” Shouneyia said.

In 2001 and 2002, Michigan lost in the first round of the Frozen Four.

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