Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson did something slightly unusual for a Tuesday practice. At the end of the session, he had the middle of the ice cleared by a Zamboni and put his team through a simulated shootout.

The fifth-ranked Wolverines have been in just one shootout since the shootout rule was instated three years ago, so it’s highly unlikely they’ll encounter one against St. Lawrence (0-2) on Thursday. Still, Berenson always runs the team through a simulation in the practice directly preceeding a game, so the team will gain confidence if the situation ever should arise.

There was another reason Berenson wanted the extra reps in Tuesday’s practice, too — he needed to evaluate the talent. Right now, he has no idea who would take the shots with the game on the line.

“I’d like to find who those players are,” Berenson said. “That’s another reason we do it — we’re not sure.”

The choice would’ve been clear last season. Michigan would’ve invariably gone with a top scorer, like Carl Hagelin or Louie Caporusso.

This year, the Wolverines don’t have such players. Sure, forwards like senior David Wohlberg and junior Chris Brown will light the lamp with relative consistency, but they’re just not the natural goal-scorers that Michigan has had in the past.

“We don’t have those guys,” Brown said. “We have a couple of guys who can really put the puck in the net, but we don’t have those guys who are going (to go) out on the ice and probably get a goal.”

That supposed lack of elite goal-scoring talent has translated to 14 goals for Michigan (3-0) this year. Not too shabby.

The Wolverines’ offense didn’t skip a beat in the opening week, partially due to the strength of its opponents — Niagara and Bentley are not exactly Miami (Ohio) or Notre Dame — and also because the whole team has contributed to the scoring.

Nineteen players have recorded points through only one week of play, including fifth-year senior goalie Shawn Hunwick, who picked up an assist in the first game against Niagara. Michigan had just five more players tally a point all of last year. And nine players this year have scored the Wolverines’ 14 goals.

“I think we’re getting some balanced scoring,” Berenson said. “But this is good. How prolific we’ll be offensively remains to be seen, but I think we’re going to get more goals from our defense as we get going, and (junior forward) Kevin Lynch hasn’t played yet and (freshman forward) Zach Hyman’s going to score, and so on. So we’ll see, we might have more offense on this year’s team.”

Michigan will face a St. Lawrence team limping into Yost Ice Arena on Thursday. The Saints finished 13-22-5 last season, good for second to last in the ECAC. They dropped their first two games this season to Ferris State by a combined six goals.

Berenson said that St. Lawrence will still be an experienced, gritty team. Its physical play could make goals hard to come by.

“Typically they’re hard to play against,” Berenson said. “They don’t give you much and you’ve got to earn it. So when we do our man-on-man drills, that’ll go right into the game. You’ll see that on Thursday.”

There will be an extra emphasis on defense in Thursday’s game, with scoring expected to be at a premium. That style matches the Wolverines’ approach to the season — Brown said that practices this year have placed extra stress on defense.

“We did lose a lot of guys,” Brown said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re not giving up more than two to three goals a game since we know scoring is going to be limited.”

Hunwick said that until scorers emerge, Michigan will have to be an opportunistic team that plays solid defense. Through three games, the defense has done its part. And the offense has gotten it done, too, even if the goals were sometimes what Hunwick described as “ugly.”

The Wolverines did pump a lot of shots on goal without much to show for it early in games last week, and Berenson said that the team needs to do a better job finishing. Still, they capitalized when it counted, especially late, and that may need to continue for Michigan to have a potent offense.

Berenson is still evaluating his offense, but he said the key is the ‘D.’

“When we looked at our team last year, we were in the top maybe five or six offensively, but we were number one defensively,” Berenson said. “That’s why we finished in first. And that’s what we’re going to have to really focus on with this team.”

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