There is an old saying that goes, “You learn something new every day.” I”m not ready to close the book on that one yet. If there”s one thing I”ve learned from this Michigan hockey season, it”s never to take anything for granted.
All season long, it”s been the question on Michigan fans” minds has this team learned its lesson? Disappointing losses were generally followed by impressive wins. The reverse also has happened numerous times.
And after each turnaround, chests would be pumped, heads held high, and thoughts circulated around the idea that this team had learned its lesson.
It certainly seemed that way when Michigan”s decimated lineup let Michigan Tech and Boston College rip it apart during the Great Lakes Invitational, only to shut out Lake Superior twice the next weekend. If winning a weekend series by a combined score of 7-0 doesn”t constitute a lesson learned, what does, right?
And after losing a heartbreaking 2-1 decision to Lake Superior on Feb. 22 in Sault. Ste. Marie, the Wolverines came back two days later and took it to the Lakers at Joe Louis Arena, 5-2. Isn”t that the kind of response this team needed to get back in it?
There was plenty of good that happened this weekend against Ferris State. Michigan stuck to its game plan, never allowing the Bulldogs” physical baiting to thwart its goal of winning the series in two games. Friday night, the Wolverines probably played their best period of the season in the game”s first 20 minutes. When that happens in the playoffs, you know the team is doing something right.
So here”s a new question to ponder as the Wolverines wait for the CCHA semifinals to start on Friday night: Should we trust them this time?
“If you haven”t learned it yet, it”s a little late to learn it,” senior defenseman Bob Gassoff said after Saturday”s game. “We have to put everything on the line if we want to play the next night.”
There are no do-overs at this point sure, if the Wolverines don”t win the CCHA Tournament, they”ll still probably be invited to the NCAAs. But this team can”t afford to leave anything to chance.
The Wolverines have an opportunity to play at the NCAA West Regional in Grand Rapids practically a back yard to Ann Arbor compared to the distances other teams may have to travel.
To get there, the Wolverines need to take control of their destiny.
The New Hampshires of the world learned this past weekend what happens when you hold on too tightly to the notion of a second chance.
By losing its Hockey East first-round series to Massachusetts-Lowell, New Hampshire has put itself in position to be watching the tournament from afar.
“We”re at the time of year now where we don”t get second chances,” Michigan associate head coach Mel Pearson said.
This team needs to become the group that it was in the first half of the season, the team that started off the year 13-3-3.
It needs to throw any notion of complacency out the window and play every remaining game with the fire and intensity that showed in Friday”s first period.
And it needs to take a good look at the national championship trophy that this year”s seniors won as freshmen.
These days, every bad period, every bad shift and every bad shot could lead to fewer periods, fewer shifts and fewer shots.
As coach Red Berenson told his team, “We need to get our heads together and really realize that if we play hockey the way we can play hockey the next three weeks, then we can play hockey for three weeks.
“And if we do play for three weeks, we”ll have the chance of playing for something very special.”
Jon Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org