As Michigan goes into the 10th annual College Hockey Showcase against Wisconsin and Minnesota on Friday and Sunday, respectively, the Michigan coaching staff has made wholesale changes to each of its lines.

Head coach Red Berenson and his staff have been considering changing up the forward pairings for about a week now, as the Wolverines haven’t been as explosive offensively. After Notre Dame defeated Michigan 4-3 last Saturday, the coaches decided that now was the time for the change.

“Maybe some of the little things caught up with us on Saturday night that we were getting away with and winning,” Assistant coach Billy Powers said. “Unfortunately, in sports, sometimes those things take a loss to really register.”

The changes come right before playing a Minnesota team that ended Michigan’s season last April in the NCAA Frozen Four en route to a title.

“There’s definitely going to be some emotion in that game,” forward Dwight Helminen said. “They beat us twice last year and we have something to prove.”

The Gophers are a lot younger this year, but their freshmen – led by nine-goal scorer Thomas Vanek – have outscored all of the other freshman classes in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

The Badgers have been by far the least successful team in the history of the College Hockey Showcase – going 2-15-1 over Thanksgiving weekend the last nine years. Despite bringing on new coach Mike Eaves from the U.S. National U-20 Team, Wisconsin still sits in last place in the WCHA with a 1-5 conference record.

Michigan, the winningest team in the history of the College Hockey Showcase, has not lost to the Badgers in their last eight meetings.

The Wolverines are 12-5-1 in the nine-year history of the showcase, and have yet to lose a road game in Thanksgiving weekend event.

Michigan will try to combat these Big Ten rivals by moving freshman Jeff Tambellini back to left wing.

The freshman will be back on a line with senior Mark Mink and Helminen, who he’s played with the majority of the season.

The British Columbia native started the season as Michigan’s hottest player, scoring six goals in his first six games. But Tambellini hasn’t lit the lamp since.

“You go through slumps and you go through droughts,” Tambellini said. “You usually get some bad goal somewhere, and it kind of kick starts again.

“Hopefully we can get lucky in the first game and get going again.”

Berenson believes Tambellini’s new position will make it easier for him to generate scoring opportunities, as left wing is his natural position.

“You can see more of the ice when you’re coming down on your on wing than you can when your on your off wing,” Berenson said.

“We know we’ve been a little bit slow, and hopefully that shakes us up a little bit,” Tambellini said. “We can’t lose between now and Christmas for sure.”

This weekend, the forwards should get more scoring opportunities, as they will be playing on an Olympic-sized ice surface for the first time this season.

Wisconsin’s Kohl Center and Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena each have 100-foot wide sheets of ice, making open-ice skating more important than before.

“You’ve got to use your speed,” Helminen said. “There’s plenty of open ice so you can get something going out there.”

This weekend

Madison and Minneapolis

Who: Michigan (6-1-1 CCHA, 9-2-1 overall) vs. Wisconsin (1-5-0 WCHA, 5-7-0) and Minnesota (4-2-2 WCHA, 7-3-3)

When: 8:05 p.m. Friday, 3:05 p.m. Sunday

Latest: The Wolverines will travel to two Big Ten cities over the Thanksgiving weekend to take part in the 10th annual College Hockey Showcase.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.