Last weekend’s games started with the Michigan student section looking up at the top rows of Yost Ice Arena, and chanting at the small Miami contingent in attendance. And after the Wolverines’ subsequent on-ice play, Michigan will be looking up to Miami for a long time.

A 5-1 loss to Miami on Saturday completed the road sweep for the top-ranked RedHawks, who were 3-43-1 at Yost all-time coming into the weekend. But the Wolverines’ defeat is more telling of the young season than just a bad loss.

All four of the Wolverines’ losses have come against currently ranked opponents. The teams they have beaten are a combined 9-17-3.

For an average team, that may be tolerable. For the fourth-ranked team in the country – a team with the best defensive unit in four years and a returning Hobey Baker finalist – it’s unacceptable.

If it isn’t time for concern yet, a bad series against No. 17 Michigan State next weekend should turn the fan base rightfully into crisis mode.

“We’re a pretty good team, but maybe we’re not good as we think we are, and maybe we’re not as good as (the media) thinks we are,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We’ll find that out as the year goes on, but right now that’s a low point.”

There is still time to figure out how “pretty good” they really are, but it isn’t as early in the season as you might think. Michigan is just about a fourth of the way into the season, and already has lost as many games against ranked teams as it did when it went to the Frozen Four in 2008. Last season, which culminated in a first-round upset loss to Air Force, the Wolverines went 5-6-0 against ranked opponents.

To get to the Frozen Four, Michigan has to beat teams they aren’t necessarily supposed to beat. If the Wolverines can’t beat them in the regular season, how can they expect to beat them in the postseason? Being over .500 against ranked teams in 2008 had to play a role in the confidence the Wolverines had heading into the NCAA Tournament. They knew they could beat the best.

These types of series, especially against top-ranked teams, can build that confidence and define your season. When you get outscored 8-2 on the weekend, the definition of your team isn’t what you want.

Now, Michigan must respond, something it failed to do during this weekend series. Once the RedHawks took the lead in both games, the Wolverines never even threatened to pry the game back open. Against No. 3 Boston University, they battled back from a 2-0 deficit but a mental error eventually doomed them in the end. They took on now-No. 13 Alaska-Fairbanks in the season opener, and they got down early and couldn’t break the Nanooks’ trap despite outshooting them.

“I think a good team, a character team, is going to respond,” senior captain Chris Summers said. “I think we showed glimpses of it against BU, but it’s a tough game.”

It’s also hard to respond when you don’t play the team again. With Miami out of Michigan’s cluster this year, the earliest the two have a chance to meet again will be in early March during the CCHA Tournament.

“How are you going to catch a team that gets six points on you?” Berenson said. “So there’s no way you’re going to catch that team unless you do better than they do against the rest of the league schedule.”

Fourteen more games against currently ranked teams provide time for Michigan to perform up to the preseason expectations of both the team and the Wolverines themselves.

But if Michigan doesn’t start to beat the good teams soon, it will be looking up to more teams than just Miami.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.