This past weekend, Michigan defensemen answered the coaches” call to step into plays and score providing four of the team”s seven goals.
Whether it was taking a shot from the point or pinching up to make a play, defenders were finding ways to score.
After junior Jeff Jillson departed early for the NHL, many suspected the offensive production of the blue line would suffer. Instead, players like sophomore Mike Komisarek and freshman Eric Werner (who scored 42 points in his junior hockey league last year) have stepped up to provide some offense.
Even senior defenseman Jay Vancik was able to take advantage of his opportunities. On Friday night against Minnesota, he scored his first goal since scoring against Queens College in an exhibition match earlier this season.
“I think (offensive play) is something that (Michigan coach) Red (Berenson) is stressing this year a lot more than he did last year,” sophomore defenseman Andy Burnes said. “When a defenseman can join the rush and turn a three- on-three into a four-on-three, that is one of the things you can do to catch the other team off guard.”
What has compounded the need for defensive scoring is the lack of production from some of the Michigan forwards. Coaches hope that defensive attacking can open things up for forwards down low and in the corners.
“We need (defensive play making) because we are not creating any goals from our forwards right now,” assistant coach Mel Pearson said. “The last couple of weeks, we have been trying to get our defensemen to become more involved offensively and just get up the ice with the play.”
Komisarek already surpassed his goal production from last year (four) when he scored his third goal of the weekend and his fifth of the season on Saturday night.
In addition, Werner has also provided an offensive threat from the blue line. While the freshman has yet to score a goal this season, he leads all defenseman with six assists. He has been playing strong of late with five assists in as many games and two multi-assist games for the Wolverines.
Werner, a slippery player with good instincts, is considered to be the most offensive defenseman for Michigan.
These skills have earned him a spot working the point with Mike Cammalleri on the first powerplay unit for much of this season.
“He is comfortable in that role,” Berenson said. “He also sees open seams to make passes.”