Michigan was solid for five periods last weekend. But the one period it didn’t play well has the team looking to prove something against conference foe Miami tonight.
After giving up five unanswered goals to Connecticut in the second and third periods of Saturday’s 7-5 win, the fifth-ranked Wolverines know they need to improve their defensive play to beat the RedHawks.
“We’re going to have to play a really good game,” senior captain Matt Hunwick said. “Just a lot of the little things we’re going to have to do.”
Michigan’s (2-0-0 overall) defense will be especially important against No. 9
Miami (3-1-0) features two of the CCHA’s top goalies in junior Charlie Effinger and sophomore Jeff Zatkoff.
“It’s probably going to be scrappy goals,” said Hunwick, who has six career points against Miami. “Just point shots, rebounds, goals that are going to be hard to work. They’re not going to come as easy as they were last weekend.”
Facing tough goaltending, it will be important for Michigan to play solid defense and not let the game get out of reach. The Wolverines will also have to cut down on their penalties after committing 13 against Connecticut, resulting in two power-play goals.
Though Michigan put up seven goals against Connecticut, facing the Huskies for the first time was a factor in the close call.
Michigan coach Red Berenson said he doesn’t foresee a similar mental lapse against Miami.
“You don’t know enough about your nonconference opponents maybe to fear them or even respect them enough,” Berenson said after Michigan beat Connecticut. “But there will be no question about Miami when they come in.”
Berenson sees a need for the Wolverines to improve their transition from offense to defense.
After joining the fourth line against both Alabama-Huntsville and Connecticut, senior Tim Cook will move up from defense to forward tonight, too.
Berenson expects Cook to be a factor in quickening the shift from offense to defense and promoting stronger back-checking from his forwards.
“I liked his enthusiasm, his hustle, his defensive awareness, his physicalness and his experience,” said Berenson, describing Cook’s play at forward last weekend.
Even with an improved defensive effort, beating Miami will not come easy for the Wolverines. Last season, Miami – the regular-season conference champion – swept its series against Michigan in Oxford.
Michigan is familiar with playing the RedHawks early in the season. In the 2003-04 season, the teams split the two games in Oxford on Oct. 10 and 11.
For the Wolverines, the early test may be a blessing. Not only will Miami necessitate higher focus, but it will also give Michigan an immediate chance to wipe out the bitter taste of the near-letdown against Connecticut.
“It’s good that this happened at the beginning of the season,” sophomore Andrew Cogliano said Saturday night. “We have to get ready for Miami, because if we have these breakdowns they are definitely going to beat us.”
No. 9 Miami (Ohio) at No. 5 Michigan
Yost Ice Arena