For a Michigan hockey team that has shown flashes of brilliance
all season — but struggled to keep moments of futility from
dotting its play — worrying about consistency and
self-improvement has become top priority. Before the team can start
to worry about its weekly opponents, the Wolverines (2-0 CCHA,
4-1-1 overall) need to continue to shore up their own game.

Ice Hockey
Jeff Tambellini scored the winning goal against Ferris State last year at home. (TONY DING/Daily)

“We’re trying to get our team (to be) more
consistent,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “Whether
it be period-to-period or shift-to-shift.”

Instead of creating a unique practice program to cater to their
next foe, Berenson and his coaches have been working on a laundry
list of issues with the team’s game. Working on things
ranging from the power play and penalty kill to breaking out of
their own zone, it seems as though Ferris State is the furthest
thing from their mind.

“Then there is a work ethic part of it,” Berenson
said. “You’re looking for players to start playing a
little bit better. Whether it’s working hard, playing better
with the puck or playing better without the puck.”

There are no special drills designed to thwart Ferris
State’s No. 1 forward line or to find holes in it’s
solid penalty kill. Berenson, who has led the Wolverines to
14-straight top-two finishes in the CCHA regular season, knows that
his team can’t win on trick plays or special schemes.

“There’s no gimmicks in this league,” Berenson
said referring to the CCHA. “There’s no one gimmick
that you’re going to change for (an opposing) team —
we’ve got to keep building on the things that we need to do
better.”

Michigan is not ignoring its opponent all together. The Bulldogs
— who set a school record for wins in 2002 en route to a CCHA
regular season championship — still have a lot of firepower.
Led by seniors Matt York, Mike Brown and Jeff Legue, Ferris State
has the experience and the top-line skill to challenge
Michigan.

“They’ve got some really good players on
paper,” Berenson said. “I don’t think
they’re as physical — in terms of size — as they
used to be, but they still play a gritty game.”

When the two teams have bumped heads in recent history, the
games have been tight. Last season, the teams split a home-and-home
series with the visiting team coming up short by one goal in both
contests.

The Bulldog’s 1-5 start doesn’t play a role in
Michigan’s employment of a self-concentration tactic.

“We had a meeting today about being aware of their team
and their strength and how they’ve played against Michigan in
the past,” Berenson said. “They’re a lot better
team than their record.”

During last year’s game in Big Rapids, a Michigan penalty
in overtime led to the Bulldogs’ game-winner. Berenson
expects special teams to play a pivotal role again this weekend. In
an overtime loss to Ohio State two weeks ago, Ferris State stopped
the CCHA’s top-ranked power play cold. The Buckeyes
capitalized just once out of a staggering 19 chances.

“I think you’re going to see close games (this
weekend),” Berenson said. “Unless one team gets the
upperhand in power plays or special teams.”

After hosting Ferris State today, Michigan will head to Big
Rapids for its second meeting tomorrow.

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