The No. 7 Michigan hockey team can only dream of executing a trick shot like the game-winner in Saturday night’s sudden-death shootout.
As Miami (Ohio) forward Bryon Paulazzo skated to take the shot, he paused at the crease in front of Michigan fifth-year senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick. He then proceeded to make a 360-degree turn, lobbing the puck over Hunwick’s left shoulder.
That trick shot worked for the RedHawks and iced the game in the blink of an eye. But it may be a long time before you see the Wolverines pull a stunt like that. Michigan coach Red Berenson says he still can’t even trust his team get the puck from point A to point B.
“If our players get too loose, then they start doing things that are not in the game plan,” Berenson said. “They start freelancing to a point where it’s not in sync with the team.”
Junior forward Chris Brown was adamant that these problems shouldn’t plague a highly ranked program. But somehow, Michigan still struggles.
That begs the question: what exactly does “making simple plays” mean?
More than anything, it means keeping possession of the puck. Too often, when the Wolverines take command of the puck, they quickly lose it. A pass gets intercepted or sometimes a player just loses control. In the worst of these situations, the turnovers result in goals for Michigan’s opponents.
It happened on Saturday when freshman defenseman Mike Chiasson’s attempt to clear Michigan’s zone eventually resulted in a Miami game-tying goal.
All season long, Berenson has preached the importance of not playing “cute.” But for some reason, the message isn’t sinking in.
This isn’t a problem that can be blamed on the team’s young blood. According to Brown, it “happens all the time, to guys that are 18 to 24.”
Berenson says he always makes his expectations explicitly clear. But when confidence — instead of common sense — takes over for Michigan, it’s easy for the simple things to get lost in the madness of the game.
“There are players that think they can make a move, and then it doesn’t work out and they regret it,” Berenson said. “It’s up to (the coaches) to communicate what’s expected. We need everyone on the same page.”
The problem is becoming so serious that Berenson is even prepared to threaten the players — too many fancy antics on the ice will lead to “a lesser role on the team.”
The coaches are frustrated, and the captains are too. The seniors have been trying to emphasize the importance of staying in the right mindset before games.
“It’s not a light switch that you can just turn on,” Brown said. “You’ve got to make sure that before you take a pregame nap or pregame meal that you’re thinking about doing the little things correct.”
Until the Wolverines prove that they can master the basics of hockey, Berenson has no plans to allow them to freestyle on the ice.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Berenson said. “We don’t have time for players improvising outside the team.”