I wonder why the Michigan hockey team can’t win.
I wonder why, with a healthier squad and in front of a home crowd, the Wolverines still couldn’t find their rhythm.
I wonder if a 5-1 loss to the ninth-place team in the CCHA, Bowling Green, is enough to wake up an unenthusiastic squad.
“We’re all looking for that one spark to get this team going,” said senior defenseman Lee Moffie. “Right now that’s hard to come by for whatever reason.”
Could it be the defensive struggles contributing to the multiple recent blowouts, struggles that reocurred Tuesday, highlighted by the third goal that slipped behind goaltender Adam Janecyk?
Trailing by one with momentum in its favor, Michigan failed to leave a defender by the net. As the puck slid behind Janecyk, he looked for someone to knock it away. He looked for a defender to save the game from spiraling out of control.
Instead, there was Bowling Green’s Ryan Carpenter, skating uncovered to the net to flip the puck in.
Missing sophomore defenseman Brennan Serville because of an injury early in the game, the Wolverines played from behind with one less teammate, but that doesn’t feel like the explanation. Michigan was playing with two strong pairings in front of him, led by the return of freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba and junior defenseman Jon Merrill.
But the duo failed to lock down a Falcon offense that has scored just 39 goals while giving up 54. Instead, there was Trouba skating down the ice with the puck in the second period, opting not to clear it into the opposing zone.
Many times during the night, Michigan found itself stuck in its own zone, unable to escape the pressure that ceased to stop.
“Our defense looked tired,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.
Added Moffie: “As far as playing tired, we have no excuses.”
But I wonder why the defensive struggles are complimented by the offensive shortcomings that seem to doom the Wolverines when they need a boost of momentum.
Down 4-1 in the third period, Michigan saw a golden opportunity to grab a goal back and show a sign of life. Sophomore forward Travis Lynch streaked down the ice on a breakaway, left with only the goalie to beat. His attempt failed, though, as Bowling Green’s Andrew Hammond easily shoved the puck aside.
Lynch isn’t the only culprit. Sophomore forward Zach Hyman had opportunities and junior forward Luke Moffatt also had his chance.
Although the Wolverines were without their captain and offensive catalyst, senior center A.J. Treais, they still failed to record more than three shots in the third period.
“Sometimes the puck doesn’t go in.” Berenson said. “It’s harder to score when you need to score when you’re playing from behind, but we’ve done that before.”
I wonder if improved play on special teams or Janecyk’s inability to put together consistent play could have been the difference.
An extended power-play chance, a five-minute major, looked like an easy way for Michigan to end its slump. Yet the Falcons made easy work of the attempt, sending pucks back to the other end of the rink.
Yet, when the Wolverines needed stops, Janecyk was unable to make the necessary plays, letting the easy rebounds, the surefire stops, go in. Many of Bowling Green’s goals weren’t the result of a pretty shot or a well-timed wrister, they were the product of sloppy play in front of the net.
Janecyk isn’t the only one of Berenson’s four goaltenders left to blame. It’s no secret that the Wolverines are letting in a number of goals, but Tuesday proved that something is needed to spark the struggling group of netminders.
Still, I’m left wondering if there is something beyond the physical play.
The enthusiasm Michigan lacked in its past games, like Friday’s exhibition loss to the United States National Team Under-18 Development Program, carried over into Tuesday’s contest. When the puck needed to be cleared or a pass needed to slide in, the Wolverines were sluggish.
I wonder what Michigan will do to remedy its slump and play consistent hockey, reminiscent of previous years.
I wonder if this is rock bottom.
Garno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org