One powerplay goal in 12 attempts against Northern Michigan. Shut out at home in the Saturday night rematch. A split weekend when only a sweep would do.
At the height of the CCHA regular season race, the Michigan hockey team did not expect an offensive power outage. Simply put, the Wolverines” scoring-amnesia couldn”t have come at a worse time.
When Michigan gets hot, the mercury explodes from the thermometer the team has averaged a shave under five goals in its 21 victories so far this season.
But in their eight losses, the Wolverines managed an average of exactly two goals per game.
Interestingly, the powerplay numbers are similar in terms of jaw-dropping disparity. Michigan converts 25.8 percent of its opportunities in wins 10.8 percent in losses.
“There”s no coincidence there, no question,” associate head coach Mel Pearson said. “When your powerplay plays well and scores, it gives the team confidence when you don”t score you don”t find that confidence or energy to feed off of.”
The varying percentages are, of course, dependent on the attempts Michigan gets in a game. The Wolverines average 5.9 powerplay opportunities in wins versus 6.1 in losses in wins and losses, the team gets the same amount of extra-man chances.
Meaning, all things being equal, as the powerplay goes so goes Michigan.
“The way the powerplay plays on that night is usually a reflection of how the rest of the team is playing,” coach Red Berenson said.
Though they hold CCHA”s best powerplay, Michigan has come up flat against some of the league”s best penalty killing teams. Michigan State and Ohio State, No. 1 and No. 3 in the league in penalty killing, respectively, have combined to hold the Wolverines to a 1-for-19 stupor with the extra man.
As the picture of Michigan”s postseason scenario in the CCHA and NCAA tournaments becomes clearer, success against top-tier, penalty killing teams moves from a concern to a necessity.
“The last month in practice we”ve been playing different guys in different situations to see how they handle it,” Pearson said. “We have an idea now but we”ve got to spend more time with it. Definitely in the playoffs you need to have good special teams and we”ll pay more attention to it now that we know the direction we”re heading with it.”
The coaching staff has experimented with different powerplay unit combinations throughout the season, but starting Friday against Notre Dame, the frequency of personnel changes on both lines will likely decrease.
“We can make changes as the game goes on, but we”re headed towards (a set unit lineup),” Pearson said.
Despite the powerplay”s anemic showing in losses this season, Berenson remains unfettered in his belief that the long-term success of the unit outweighs its occasional struggles, including this weekend.
“You”re not going to have a perfect season. Sure you”d like to take back those losses, but there are only six teams with a better record in the country right now,” he said.
“If you blow-out a tire, are you going to start crying? Are you going to leave your car, sell it or are you going to fix it?”