While games aren’t played on paper, Kevin Lynch’s season has been defined by the third-to-last page of the game notes every week.
Under Lynch’s name in the No. 6 Michigan hockey team’s game-by-game scoring breakdown is half a page of 0-0-0 lines. The sophomore forward hasn’t registered a point in 13 games.
His last point came over a month ago, when he scored two goals on Nov. 20 against Lake Superior State. Of all players still on the team and not injured, the only player who has a longer scoreless streak is senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick, who is currently just one game behind Lynch.
The statistic sheet isn’t the only indication of Lynch’s scoring issues. Lynch got off the ice after practice on Tuesday and smiled at the mention of the scoreless streak.
“I knew sometime, at some point this was coming,” Lynch said.
He should have. He’s no stranger to streaks like these as a Wolverine. Last season, near the beginning of the campaign, Lynch also went 13 games without a point. And Lynch’s message from last year hasn’t changed. Two phrases used repeatedly in both instances by both Lynch and Michigan coach Red Berenson were “bearing down” and “working hard.”
“I’m getting chances, so I’m not really worried about it,” Lynch said in December 2009. “I just need to bear down and once I get that first one, it will come in bunches.”
Now, a year later, Lynch said: “There’s nothing really you can do. Sometimes you’re lucky and you get the bounces from working hard … I just need to get that first one out of the way.”
Last season, Lynch ended the streak at 13 and went on to register six goals and nine assists as he tore through the end of the season. He continued the momentum into this year, registering nine points in the first 14 games before being thrown off the scoring train. The explanation?
“(He’s) not getting many chances, and then there was a stretch where every time he got the puck in front of the net he’d pass it,” Berenson said. “Never mind passing it, get a shot on the net, shoot like you want to score, and so on. You might only get one chance a game, so when you get it, be ready to shoot it.”
Despite coming to Ann Arbor as a second-round pick (the Columbus Blue Jackets took him 56th overall) and putting up 48 points in 63 games as part of the United States National Development Team Program, Berenson doesn’t judge Lynch by his scoring. Instead it’s his work ethic, defensive play, puck touches and penalty-killing ability that allow him to earn a spot in the lineup every night.
The coach’s decision paid off in the second period Friday night. With Michigan leading Alaska 1-0, a Nanook sent a pass from the corner to his teammate in the slot for what appeared to be a point-blank opportunity. Playing winger, Lynch jumped down and got his stick on the pass, deflecting it harmlessly away.
The play may have saved a goal, but it didn’t make the game notes.
“Things aren’t clicking for me right now, but it doesn’t really matter for me,” Lynch said. “Obviously, I’m a little concerned and trying to work every day in practice about it but the team is winning right now and obviously that’s most important to me.”