Ugly trends tend to become more glaring during tough times than when a team is winning.
After last weekend’s disappointing winless effort at Nebraska-Omaha, Michigan’s lack of offensive consistency came to the forefront.
The offense couldn’t put good scoring chances together for more than a few minutes at a time. And if you look closely at the situation, it’s clear why Michigan only produces in spurts.
There’s one peculiar thing. Looking at the leaders of the team, this consistency issue does not seem to be a problem.
Senior captain Andrew Ebbett, senior alternate captain Brandon Kaleniecki and sophomore Chad Kolarik – the three Icers that compose the top line – all have more points through 34 games this season than they did at the same point last year.
The trend holds true for the second line of junior alternate captain T.J. Hensick, sophomore Kevin Porter and junior David Rohlfs. All three are ahead of the point pace they set last season. In fact, Rohlfs has more points this year despite playing most games on defense, and Porter has already exceeded his entire point total from last season.
So if the offensive veterans have all stepped up their games, what might the problem be?
The rest of Michigan’s lineup appears to be the culprit. The Wolverines’ third and fourth offensive units have been producing at an anemic pace during the season’s second half.
For example, the third line of freshmen Andrew Cogliano, Travis Turnbull and Tim Miller accumulated 35 points in the season’s first 17 games. After the set with the Mavericks, the trio has collected just 19 more points in the same number of games.
Cogliano’s statistics are especially troubling. Through the first 17 contests, he had 19 points – the third-highest total on the team, trailing only Hensick and freshman Jack Johnson. The forward was one of the catalysts for the Wolverines’ early success.
But in the last 17 games, Cogliano has notched just six points. And three of those came in one game against Bowling Green on Jan. 21.
“He’s getting chances, and, when you don’t get chances, that’s when you start worrying,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “The first 10 games were maybe a bit of a fairytale type of thing, almost too good to be true. … Now, we’re back to the reality.”
The third line has produced sporadically throughout the season, but the fourth line has had offensive issues all year.
Even when the team was playing well at the beginning of the season, the fourth line of freshmen Danny Fardig, Brandon Naurato and the interchangeable Tyler Swystun and Zac MacVoy didn’t produce much in the way of offense. The same has held true during the team’s struggles. The four players have combined for 25 points this year.
The fourth unit appeared to break out of its scoring slump two weeks ago against Lake Superior State, when it combined for a goal in both games of the series. But in two games against Nebraska-Omaha, they failed to produce a single point.
Because of the struggling third and fourth lines, the Michigan coaching staff has experimented with some changes.
In yesterday’s practice, Cogliano switched places with Rohlfs so the freshman could play alongside Hensick and Porter in the hopes of reigniting the unit’s scoring prowess. Because Hensick is a center, Cogliano moved from his natural position of center to the wing position.
“Hopefully we can work well together, get on the board and get my confidence going,” Cogliano said.
The coaching staff understands the young forwards’ limitations and is adapting to them.
“I think they are capable of scoring once in a while, but they are not bread-and-butter offensive threats,” Berenson said. “That’s the way our team is, and that’s the way we have our lines set up. We have two scoring lines and two other lines that can hopefully hold their own.”