Winter blues? Midseason slump? Forgotten New Year’s resolutions?
Not for this hockey team.
The Wolverines finished the month of January with an almost perfect 6-1 record, the lone blemish coming from a 2-1 home loss to lowly Northern Michigan.
After a disappointing first half of the season, culminating with a major letdown in the Great Lakes Invitational, many players vowed to vault the team to where it belonged in the second stretch. Aside from the loss to the Wildcats, it seems like the Wolverines took that resolution to heart.
“This is the time of year that Michigan teams need to be at their best,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “Let’s face it: We are a pretty good team. We underachieved in the first half, and we need to have a good second half – a real good second half.”
Michigan outscored opponents 37-14 this month. In December, the Wolverines were outscored 15-22, going 1-3.
The key to the new year has been a revamped emphasis on defense – lowering the goals against average from 3.57 in 2006 to 2.0 in 2007 – while maintaining a booming offense.
Though the Wolverines seem to be hitting their stride at a crucial part of the season, they have yet to face a ranked team in 2007. Two of their five remaining opponents are currently ranked.
Michigan has eight games left in the regular season and sits one point shy of second place in the CCHA. Notre Dame leads the league with 32 points, followed by Miami (Ohio) (29), Michigan (28) and Michigan State (25). The Wolverines have played the same number of conference games as the Irish (20), while the RedHawks have played two more, and the Spartans one less.
The top four teams get a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs and home-ice advantage in the second round of the tournament. Michigan hasn’t finished outside the top four since 1988.
“This late in the season, we do not have any games to waste,” senior captain Matt Hunwick said. “We have to win every one.”
Helping Hensick: It’s a rare night when senior T.J. Hensick doesn’t tally a point. On Saturday, with less than two minutes remaining in the game, it looked like it would be one of those atypical nights – until a Jack Johnson slapshot zoomed into the net.
Hensick’s assist on the goal moved him into sole possession of fifth place on the Michigan career assist list. His 135 career helpers are also the most of any active NCAA player.
The Hobey Baker Award hopeful leads the country in assists (34), assists per game (1.2) and points (46).
Hensick is also on the cusp of 200 career points after his three-assist weekend put him at 199 points.
No Alaska? No problem: After staying home during last weekend’s trip to Fairbanks to rest his injured knee, freshman defenseman Steve Kampfer rejoined the lineup Friday. The Jackson native didn’t notch any points, but he made his presence known at the other end of the ice with a team-leading four blocked shots.
Johnsons everywhere you look: Sophomore defenseman Jack Johnson may have wowed many with his first career hat trick Friday night, but he wasn’t the only member of the Johnson family entertaining the crowd at Yost Ice Arena.
Minutes after Johnson scored his second goal of the night, the second intermission arrived, and his younger brother Kenny took the stage in the Score-O competition. The little Johnson put the biscuit in the basket with a little assistance from those holding the Score-O board.
Soon after, Johnson’s father did his usual second-intermission dance, accompanied by football players Jake Long and Adam Kraus.