Junior goalie Bryan Hogan’s biggest strength became his biggest weakness.
Michigan had just tied the game 2-2 last Saturday against Boston University. Hogan went out to play the puck to his defense, a strong point in his game. While in the corner, the Terrier forecheck disrupted the pass and Boston put the puck into the wide open net.
“I looked at his puck touches,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “He probably made 15 good plays and then one not-so-good play and it cost us a goal. He didn’t get any support from his defensemen, either. They were all – not asleep at the switch – but not sensing danger either. They were just taking it for granted that Hogan would get them the puck.”
The rare puck-handling mistake from Hogan, who Berenson says “might be the best puck-handling goalie we’ve had since (Marty) Turco,” revealed a deeper issue among the team – the lack of communication between Hogan and the defense.
With a startling silence between the two parties and Hogan being very active outside of the crease, the coaches have seen the defensemen automatically anticipate that Hogan will get the puck to them. But when the defensemen are wrong on their assumptions, they tend to put themselves out of position.
On the game-winning goal Saturday, sophomore Brandon Burlon was in the far corner expecting the pass from Hogan and senior Chris Summers was on the half boards also looking for a quick pass. Neither could touch Terrier forward Joe Pereira before he put it in the empty net.
“Anytime the puck comes in, and the goalie’s going to have to handle it, let’s expect danger,” Berenson said. “We can expect him to make the play, but if he doesn’t or gets a bad bounce, then we can step in and help.”
More communication will lead to better defensive-zone coverage. With the defense telling Hogan what it wants to do with the puck, usually to either “leave it” behind the net or to “play it” up to a Wolverine, it can send one man to receive the puck while the other gets into a more defensively responsible position.
This chatter can also lead to a better transition from the defense to offense. When Hogan receives the puck on a dump-in behind the net, the defensemen can tell him where to go to with it, and he can then connect on a long outlet pass to create an odd-man rush the other way.
“We’ve been working on that in practice, just defense-goalie dump-ins and literally calling what we want done,” Burlon said. “(Using) the exact words we want to use with Hogie just so he knows what’s going on, so we avoid any of that confusion later on in the season.”
The defensemen will need that communication as Hogan takes the net this weekend in Sault Ste. Marie against Lake Superior State. With the nation’s No. 15 scoring offense, the Lakers will pounce on any Wolverine lapse.
But the strengthened relationship in the defensive zone has Michigan optimistic that it has learned from its faults.
“I think this weekend will be a big test for me and the defensemen to move the puck a lot,” Hogan said. “I think it’s going to be a lot better for sure since we’re on the same page now. Before, we were just kind of winging it.”