For Michigan’s 10 seniors, preparing for games has become old hat. But for senior defenseman Reilly Olson, making his debut as a forward posed a daunting task. Warming up before Friday’s game, Olson went through in his head what to do in every situation when on the ice. There was a lot to think about because he was moving from his native defense to left wing.
“Before the game I was a little nervous,” Olson said. “Once the game starts, you just start flowing to the puck, and it all comes pretty quickly.”
Olson spent the week leading up to Michigan’s matchup with Northern Michigan shaking off the rust from the 10 years that separate him from his last stint as a forward. After breaking into the lineup for four games at defenseman earlier this year — his first games since March 2003 — Olson was put back on the bench by coach Red Berenson. But with three Michigan forwards out with injuries, Olson’s opportunity landed in his lap.
“I wasn’t sure if (Berenson) was going to go with an extra defenseman or try me at forward,” Olson said. “I guess I wasn’t too surprised. I got a couple practices (at forward) to try and get my feet wet.”
With just 16 games of college hockey experience coming into the weekend, Berenson wanted to see Olson get a little more game-speed experience in the absence of the three injured forwards. Thanks to his puck handling skills and ability to fill in at defense if the situation called for it, Berenson put him back in the lineup.
“He’s a pretty good hockey player,” Berenson said. “But there’s a speed and intensity in these games, he needs to play more games to get caught up to that.”
Olson certainly isn’t the first defenseman Berenson has asked to move up front. Last season, then-junior defenseman Eric Werner made four appearances at right wing before returning to defense. Because Werner has become one of the Wolverines’ top defenseman, Berenson opted to move Olson to forward instead.
“Why take one of your best defensemen and put him at forward?” Berenson said. “It’s a lot easier for someone to play the odd shift on the fourth (forward) line than it is to play every second or third shift on defense.”
Paired with fellow seniors Charlie Henderson and Michael Woodford, Olson didn’t see a lot of minutes. After the first period — in which he played a handful of shifts to get comfortable — Olson saw sporadic ice time both nights. He was held to one shift in the second period on Saturday after nine penalties were called forcing special teams to play most of the period. With the Wildcats in striking distance near the end of the game, Berenson again held back on using him.
“I didn’t have too much ice time,” Olson said jokingly. “So I didn’t have too many opportunities to screw up. I felt pretty good once I got my feet wet, got a few shifts behind me.”
Despite the limited opprotunities, Olson felt more at ease as the game went on.
“Assuming I have to go (play forward next week), I’ll be a little bit more comfortable, and maybe I’ll get a little bit more action,” Olson said. “Hopefully, I’ll play a little bit better.”
Injury update: Michigan isn’t expecting to have any of its three injured scratches back in the lineup and could lose yet another forward to injury for next weekend’s matchup with Michigan State.
Senior Jason Ryznar was taken to the hospital for x-rays following Saturday night’s game. Ryznar blocked a shot late in the third period and then quickly skated to the Wolverine bench. The puck struck the Michigan forward on his right hand, possibly breaking a finger. As of yesterday, there was no word on the results of the X-ray.
Sophomore forwards Mike Brown and David Rohlfs, who were sidelined with mononucleosis, will continue to be week-to-week decisions. Both players are past the point of being infectious to their teammates.
Senior forward David Moss remains sidelined with a groin injury. Berenson hopes he will start to skate this week.
“If you’re not skating, the best thing to do is rest it,” Berenson said on Thursday. “Then you have to start skating on it gingerly until you can really push hard. Until he can skate hard, he can’t play.”
43 Friday’s 4-1 loss to Northern Michigan marked the first home conference loss in almost two years for the Wolverines. Following a 13-0 home record versus CCHA teams during last year’s regular season, Michigan had gone 9-0 at Yost in conference play this season.
“A lot of the time, when we win at home, we get it going early, and we get the fans behind us, and it’s hard for the other team to play,” senior alternate captain Brandon Rogers said following the loss. “We never established that (Friday).”