When fans outscore their team, you know it’s been a rough night. And that’s exactly what happened on Friday night at Yost Ice Arena. The Michigan hockey team couldn’t outscore the Score-O participants.
A college-aged woman and a 3-foot-nothing toddler found the back of the net more often than Chad Kolarik and T.J. Hensick, combined.
The final: Score-O participants 2, Michigan hockey team 1.
I understand bad games happen and sometimes things don’t go your way. A shot hits the post (like Kolarik’s wicked shot that clanged off the crossbar in the second period), or the puck bounces over a stick when there’s an open net. It’s understandable. It happens. That’s the world of sports.
But this wasn’t just a bad game or a case of the puck bouncing the wrong way or even the officials being particularly harsh.
Michigan was just outplayed. Forget that. The Wolverines stunk.
The RedHawks out-hustled them to the puck, out-hustled them into the corners and may have even out-hustled them out of Yost.
Think I’m being too harsh? Ask coach Red Berenson.
“We got outworked from the start of the game to the end of the game and in every department,” Berenson said.
Ouch. And he wasn’t kidding. Miami even out-hat tricked Michigan.
But Kolarik sent fans into a frenzy with his hat trick on Thursday night, notching his final goal on an empty net.
Miami’s Nathan Davis netted a short-handed goal and a garbage goal before capping his trifecta by out-muscling captain Matt Hunwick to a loose puck to score a second short-handed goal. Even Davis’s hat trick was more impressive than Kolarik’s on Thursday.
When Berenson was asked if he saw shades of last season during this game, he didn’t mince words. Berenson responded that no game last season was as bad as this one. Really?
Mind you last year the Wolverines lost 4-3 to Ferris State on Senior Night at Yost Ice Arena despite holding a 3-0 lead.
And when asked if he had sensed there’d be a letdown prior to the game, Hunwick said, “We knew the intensity was going to be a lot higher tonight, and I just think we were not prepared.”
How could this team be unprepared when the RedHawks handed it to them in a two-game sweep last season?
None of the Wolverines’ troubles should be unfamiliar to Michigan hockey fans. The weak power play, the stupid penalties and, most importantly, the seeming lack of effort all plagued the team last year. And throughout Friday’s game, those tendencies popped up again. The only difference was that Michigan couldn’t blame any of this on inexperience.
“We all have to take responsibility for tonight,” Berenson said. “Working: It’s not a gift, it’s not a skill, it’s an expectation from everyone.”
But no one, myself included, should push the panic button just yet. There are still plenty of games left in the season. And as Berenson himself said, it’s difficult to beat a CCHA team twice in a weekend.
Still, the Wolverines have to be careful not too fall into the same pattern of mediocre play and inconsistency they had last season. They cannot continue to say “Next time we’ll . ” because before they know it, February will be ending and a regular-season CCHA title will already be out of reach.
Senior Tim Cook said the entire team has to make a mental decision before every game not to be outworked by the opposing squad.
If Michigan wants to avoid a repeat of last season, that mental decision has to turn into a primal instinct.
– Bosch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.