SOUTH BEND — So, Michigan left Ann
Arbor and, once again, seemingly failed to show up at an opposing
arena. It’s nothing new for the Wolverines — at least
this season.

Mira Levitan
The Wolverines have been broadsided several times when they have ventured outside the friendly confines of Yost Ice Arena. (TONY DING/Daily)
Mira Levitan

Two weeks ago, Michigan put the finishing touches on a perfect
conference home mark (13-0-0) by easily sweeping Bowling Green.
Michigan has put on a show for the Yost faithful all season long,
effortlessly pummeling any team that dare occupy the
visitor’s bench.

But, when the Wolverines have left the comfortable confines of
1000 S. State St., they’ve instantly transformed from
“Who’s your daddy?” to “Where’s my
daddy?” Timid, hesitant and seemingly unmotivated in other
CCHA arenas, the Wolverines have looked lost on the road, stumbling
to a 5-7-1 mark.

While Michigan has experienced an abundance of road woes in the
2003-04 campaign, last weekend’s installment of road futility
stands out above (or below) the rest. Having won 13 of their
previous 14 games, the Wolverines suffered a pair of three-goal
losses to an inferior Notre Dame squad.

But don’t tell any player or coach that the foreign venue
had anything to do with their embarrassing display on the ice. As
they’ve done all season, most team members adamantly refuted
the notion that they’re a bad road team.

The phrase “road struggles” carries a stigma around
the Michigan locker room. When confronted with the phrase, most
Wolverines lock up and go into classic Bill Clinton Zippergate
mode: wholehearted denial. “We do NOT have poor road
relations…”

I’ve never been one to doubt a person’s face-to-face
word. Hell, I trusted Big Bill and that was TV-to-face. So how can
I call shenanigans on Michigan captain Andy Burnes? But, if being
on the road doesn’t play a factor in Michigan’s random
series breakdowns (that all do ironically take place away from
Yost), what does?

Put on your checkered deerstalker cap — that’s
Sherlock Holmes’s headpiece of choice for you young’uns
— and let the detective work begin.

Many times in sports, a lackluster showing can be attributed to
poor preparation. Could this be the answer? Did the Wolverines fail
to put in a solid week of work prior to each one of these
substandard weekends? No chance.

I’ve been to most of this season’s practices, and
trying to differentiate between a week’s work that led to a
win and a week’s work that led to a loss is like attempting
to distinguish the differences in two Steven Seagal movies:
It’s all the same. Michigan approaches every day of practice
with the same focused, intense demeanor. And each week has
basically the same routine. So, these haphazard breakdowns
don’t come as a result of inadequate preparation.

Perhaps the white sweaters that Michigan has worn in most of
these blemishes are to blame. In the maize and blue sweaters, the
Wolverines’ are 5-2 and 10-2, respectively, while they hold
just an 8-6-1 mark in the whites. I never did like the whites
— they’re so bland. I’ve always abided by a
simple philosophy: “If you look good, you play good.”
But, if this presumption were true, what was the deal with Anna
Kournikova? Also, the Wolverines didn’t don white once in
last weekend’s debacle. Don’t think the sweaters have
much bearing.

Possibly, it’s something a little more diminutive.
There’s one thing that has definitely caught my attention. In
every CCHA game that the Wolverines have dropped, Michigan goalie
coach Stan Matwijiw’s name has been spelled wrong
(“Matijiw”) on the line chart.

Bear with me now, a spelling blunder can have more impact than
you’d think. Just ask Dan Quayle. This is especially
significant considering what letter’s missing from
Matwijiw’s name in each of these losses? The “W.”
Coincidence?!? I THINK N- … so. The Matwijiw spelling miscue has
occurred on every line chart this year, not just the losses.

I’ve got it. It’s got to have something to do with
the audio synchronization (or lack thereof) in the Keith Hafner
Karate commercial. Because I’ve noticed that in weeks when
the voices actually follow the mouths, Michigan—

Alright. This is getting kind of ridiculous. I agree. Everyone
needs to just face the fact that Michigan struggles on the road.
None of my resolutions are legit. There are no two ways about it.
The Wolverines become an average team outside of Yost. I know it.
You know it. And, truth be told, they know it.

The Wolverines don’t want to accept their inabilities
outside of Yost because, besides a first round CCHA playoff series,
that’s the only place they’ll be the rest of the way.
Michigan has two remaining regular season games against Michigan
State. Friday, the teams will face off in East Lansing and
Saturday’s season finale will take place in Joe Louis Arena.
The Joe will also play host to all CCHA playoff games after the
first round. Barring total collapse, the Wolverines will move on to
the NCAA tournament. But, unlike the last two years, Michigan will
not host the Midwest Regional, which will be held in Grand
Rapids.

Michigan’s road denial has to stop. The Wolverines
acknowledge the obvious. They need to accept that they have copious
shortcomings outside of Yost, and do whatever they need to do to
kick the obstruction. If they refuse, the denial will finish them
— kind of like what it did to Big Bill’s integrity.

Gennaro Filice can be reached at
“mailto:gfilice@umich.edu”>gfilice@umich.edu.

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