For all the confidence the Michigan hockey team exuded during the first half of the season, it’s hard to have anything but doubts after the past two weekends.
No sooner than the Wolverines got off to the best 24-game start in program history, they put together four consecutive games of anxiety-ridden and often uninspired hockey.
Michigan was supposed to be proving itself. Instead it’s showing that you can never be too sure.
But the Wolverines don’t have time to start doubting themselves. The nation’s top-ranked team, Miami (Ohio), awaits them in Oxford.
This will be Michigan’s biggest test of the season, and it appears to be arriving at the worst possible time.
The most anticipated matchup of the season could turn into the most overhyped. The Michigan team that showed up this weekend won’t even come close to touching the RedHawks.
But there’s one team that can give Miami (Ohio) a run for its money: The Michigan team that went 22-2 to start the season.
Sure, they didn’t win pretty and they definitely made their share of mistakes, but the Wolverines were confident and resilient until two weeks ago. Since then, it appears those key qualities have gone missing. It’s time to start a full-scale search.
The Michigan hockey team that earned its No. 1 ranking was last seen at the Palace at Auburn Hills, sweeping Notre Dame a little more than two weeks ago. Now the Wolverines appear lost along what looked like a straight path to the Frozen Four.
First came a hard-fought but disappointing weekend against archrival Michigan State – one in which Michigan was lucky to come away with a single point.
This weekend it got worse, both on and off the ice.
Playing against a Northern Michigan team that’s ninth in the CCHA standings, Michigan showed none of its usual confidence, momentum or puck luck.
For all their efforts, the Wolverines earned just two ties that left the team seeming anxious and a bit confused.
Making the weekend more disheartening was freshman Kevin Quick’s sudden and mysterious dismissal from the team.
Quick had just four points in 21 games, but was a solid defenseman. More importantly, he was one piece of a close-knit locker room. This team has a chemistry unlike past year’s that carries it through difficult games and gives it confidence despite the naysayers.
No one outside the team knows what Quick did to be kicked off the squad. But considering Michigan coach Red Berenson hasn’t taken this action in nearly 10 years, considering there was no prior indication of rule-breaking or wrongdoing, considering Quick seemed to be one of the most soft-spoken, even-keeled and good-natured members of the team, it must have been really bad.
“The decision was made because Kevin violated our team rules and the trust of our team,” Berenson said in a statement released before Friday’s game.
Berenson offered little clarification in Friday night’s press conference, but a call to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the organization holding Quick’s professional rights, revealed this was no simple misunderstanding.
The Lightning are conducting their own internal investigation of the incident, team spokesman Brian Breseman said by phone Saturday.
If Quick’s transgression is serious enough to warrant an investigation by an NHL team, it’s probably severe enough to have given this Michigan team pause going into the biggest weekend of the year.
This four-game winless streak and Quick’s dismissal make it clear a number of questions remain unanswered. Something is missing.
Michigan has four days to find itself, or the questions will keep piling up.
Even worse, the magic of the first 24 games will continue to trickle away.
– Sandals can be reached at email@example.com.