The first goal of Michigan”s 7-0 rout of Alaska-Fairbanks three weeks ago was scored by forward Mike Cammalleri on the powerplay. Cammalleri, who had quarterbacked Michigan”s first powerplay unit before he went down with mono on Jan. 17, accepted a pass from John Shouneyia at the point and scorched a one-timer into the net.
But goals like that haven”t happened much in the past three games, as Michigan”s powerplay has hit the skids since it lost its star.
“Mike”s a special player,” Michigan associate head coach Mel Pearson said. “He”s got skills that you can”t give someone, and he makes things happen on the powerplay. His absence has hurt our first unit, but we”ve had to adjust to that.”
Michigan is 1-for-15 on the powerplay since the Alaska-Fairbanks series (the last time Cammalleri skated). The lone goal came on a two-man advantage in its 3-2 win over Bowling Green this past Saturday.
Without the extra dimension that Cammalleri brings to the powerplay, the Wolverines are simplifying their game. The focus is no longer on finding their quarterback at the point for a slapshot. Instead, the strategy is to dump the puck in the zone and work hard around the boards to generate scoring chances.
“We”re getting back to basics,” Pearson said. “By that I mean trying to get shots through to the net and outnumber people not try and be as cute as possible. We have to work harder on the powerplay than we have.”
Another dimension of Cammalleri”s game was his ability to create chances for those on his line. Without him, good scoring opportunities have been hard to come by for some of Michigan”s other top players.
“When you”re missing a key fixture in your powerplay, then it”s going to affect you,” Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer said. “But we haven”t been executing and we”ve been getting outworked, and that”s why we haven”t been scoring.
“We”re not going to get as many opportunities as we do when Mike”s here, so we have to take advantage of what we do get.”
On the other side of the special teams spectrum, Michigan”s penalty kill has not experienced a decline with Cammalleri”s departure. Michigan has not allowed a powerplay goal since facing North Dakota in the first game of the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 28. In its last nine games, Michigan has killed off 37 of 38 penalties.
“It”s been great,” Ortmeyer said. “We”re outworking other teams, we”ve got guys who block shots, who get their sticks in the passing lanes and we”ve been able to keep teams off the scoreboard.”
Said Michigan coach Red Berenson of the team”s penalty killing: “We just want to build on the confidence that we have and make it a source of pride for the team. When you”re not scoring on the powerplay, it”s the only way to stay positive in special teams.”
Get well soon: Pearson reported yesterday that Cammalleri, who is recovering at home from mono, is starting to improve.
“From what I understand, he”s feeling much, much better,” Pearson said. “They talk about the spleen getting enlarged, but when that starts to get back to normal size, he can start working out.
“But from talking to him, he feels a lot better, and hopefully that will continue so we can see him again this year.”