For the first time this season, the No. 1 Michigan hockey team went without a win in a series last weekend.
And it was against bitter rival Michigan State.
Yet, while the Wolverines were on the losing end of a statement weekend for the Spartans, they have No. 1 Miami (Ohio) coming up on their schedule – a perfect stage to make a big statement.
But before that, they still have a series to play this weekend, despite the attention the showdown with the RedHawks is getting.
The fear of being caught looking ahead would usually arise with Northern Michigan coming to town between showdowns with Notre Dame, Michigan State and Miami (Ohio), but Michigan isn’t taking anything for granted right now, because of last weekend.
The difference: the Wolverines are coming off their first multi-game winless streak of the year.
“It was a good wake-up call for us,” said freshman Matt Rust, who said he felt the freshmen’s intensity in the Michigan State series was lowered after the strong performance against the Fighting Irish.
The young Wolverines (15-2-1 CCHA, 22-3-1 overall) learned they weren’t unbeatable last weekend, making it unlikely any team could sneak up on them anytime soon. But heading into a two-game home series against Northern Michigan, the Wolverines have last weekend’s ugly loss and tie in mind.
“We’re just going to come out and play as hard as we can – especially after a weekend like that,” senior captain Kevin Porter said. “It doesn’t really matter who we play, they’re going to have a tough time with us.”
On top of that, Michigan coach Red Berenson said it would be easier to bounce back from the adversity the team encountered with his freshman-packed roster than it would be if he had a more veteran squad.
“I think (the freshmen are) resilient,” Berenson said. “They compete hard, but it’s not their team yet. Porter is carrying the weight of the team on his shoulders, win and lose.”
Despite all Michigan has going in its favor, the Wildcats (7-11-0, 10-15-1) are a transformed team since the two squads met in October. No CCHA team – not even Notre Dame – has swept Northern Michigan since the Wildcats opened conference play with six straight losses to Michigan, Michigan State and Miami (Ohio).
But it’s not just a matter of sparking team confidence going into the final month of regular season play. Conference rival Miami (Ohio) has an off weekend, just like when Michigan played Ohio State, meaning the Wolverines could take over first place in the conference before facing the RedHawks. Michigan currently sits three points back.