On Friday night, while some students tried to make the most of the end of spring break by drinking excessively, senior Kevin Lynch had a blackout of his own during the Michigan hockey team’s game against Northern Michigan in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
Midway through the first period, the forward poked the puck away from a Northern Michigan player in the neutral zone and went on a breakaway. As he approached the Wildcat goal, he faked netminder Jared Coreau left before burying the puck in the bottom-right corner.
It’s all a blur for Lynch, though.
“I usually black out when I get on breakaways,” Lynch said. “I had no idea what was going on. I thought if I made a quick move, (the goalie would) bite it. I think he bit too hard (and) I kind of got lucky there.”
Lynch’s score was the go-ahead goal for Michigan that night, and it was thanks to his ability to capitalize on the breakaway opportunity.
Odd-man rushes, especially breakaways, haven’t always been good to the Wolverines this season. Last weekend, though, Michigan had several grade-A scoring chances on odd-man rushes against Northern Michigan.
Lynch scored his goal shorthanded, and senior defenseman Lee Moffie barely missed the net on a breakaway during another Michigan penalty kill. A Wildcat dragged down freshman forward Andrew Copp as he approached Coreau, resulting in a Michigan penalty shot that Copp easily buried.
Despite an apparent improvement on odd-man rushes over the weekend, Michigan coach Red Berenson doesn’t see the surplus of breakaway opportunities sustaining itself throughout the rest of the season — he expects them to become more of an anomaly as the playoffs progress.
“You’re not going to get as many this time of year,” he said. “We got a couple of weird rushes. I think teams are playing really good defense.”
Though the team practices breakaway chances two to three times a week, Berenson says there’s nothing they can really do to create odd-man rushes in games — they’re situations that arise on their own, a matter of luck more than anything else.
“In these games, a bounce of the puck or a quick good play and you could get an (odd-man rush),” Berenson said. “The (players) don’t know what’s going to happen in the game. We’re just going to have to play our game and see what happens.”
Berenson cited Western Michigan’s goals-against average (second in the CCHA) as the chief reason why he’s not putting too much attention on odd-man rushes for this upcoming series. Since goals will be precious this weekend anyway, Berenson doesn’t want to risk sloppy play on the small chance that the breakaway will pay off — especially since the Wolverines gave up eight goals the last time they played in Kalamazoo in January.
“We sure can’t go in there sacrificing defense on the road,” Berenson said. “So we’ve got to play smart and be on the right side of the puck. Then we’ve got to make our chances count and play ugly hockey if we have to.”