In Tuesday”s 3-1 victory over the U.S. National Under-18 team, senior backup goalie Kevin O”Malley proved once again that he is a capable replacement for starter Josh Blackburn.

Paul Wong
Michigan senior backup goaltender Kevin O” Malley seems to have saved his best for last, as he”s had solid performances in the past two games he”s had action in.<br><br>FILE PHOTO

O”Malley faced 14 shots from Team USA and the lone goal scored came on a tremendous play by defenseman Matthew Carle. In addition, in the Blue-White intrasquad game, O”Malley stopped 24 of 25 shots and actually out-performed Blackburn, who let in two goals on 21 shots.

“I worked a lot this summer with Michigan volunteer goalie coach Stan (Matwijiw) and it helped a lot,” O”Malley said when asked if he had improved since last season. “Usually in the past I didn”t skate all summer, and then came in and by December I was feeling good. This year I skated a lot, and I”m excited and ready to play.”

COMING DOWN: Coming off the world record-breaking “Cold War” game last Saturday against Michigan State, the Wolverines came out flat against Team USA. Going from one of the most intense hockey atmospheres to an exhibition game was a tough transition for Michigan.

“One of the things I think was difficult mentally for our team is that we came off a high on Saturday,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “I know that that event affected me as a coach, and can you imagine how it affected the young players on our team, or all the players on the team. So, they”re still coming down from that. It took us half the game to get our heads in the game.”

While the “Cold War” is tough to match in intensity, the Wolverines know it”s not a good excuse to not play to their full potential.

“It”s hard to motivate yourself but you just have to do it,” Michigan freshman forward Jason Ryznar said. “Every time you go out there you have to play like it”s any other game, no matter who your opponent is.”

ALMOST THERE: Michigan junior forward Mark Mink, who has been out of commission since the beginning of the season with a broken hand, skated with the Wolverines at practice yesterday. Mink”s hand is improving, but instead of pushing it by playing this weekend, he has decided to wait it out for another week.

“(The hand) feels good. It gets better day by day,” Mink said. “This week I can shoot and do the things that I normally could. The strength is still down and that”s a big problem.

“I”m going to take another week off and hopefully be ready to play against Western (Michigan).”

Aside from Mink and freshman defenseman Nick Martens who dinged his shoulder against Team USA the Wolverines are healthy and ready to go for this weekend. That includes junior forward Mike Cammalleri, whose hip flexor was sore after his first real action last Saturday against Michigan State.

Freshman forward Michael Woodford sat out the game against Team USA with a separated shoulder, but skated yestereday and feels that he will be ready for the trip to Omaha.

HOME, SWEET HOME: When Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer takes the ice against Providence tomorrow night at the Nebraska-Omaha Maverick Stampede, he will have many of his friends and family rooting for him.

Ortmeyer, a native of Omaha, was unable to play in his hometown last season because he was sidelined with a torn ACL.

“I didn”t get the chance to last year, so I”m pretty excited to go home this year,” Ortmeyer said. “It”s gonna be exciting, but it”s just another game and you”ve got to approach it in the same way.”

Fine tuning: Yesterday at practice, Michigan spent much of its time working on basic things like making sharp, crisp passes and breaking clean out of the defensive zone.

“Early in the season your passing is often not as sharp as it needs to be,” Berenson said. “We need to keep working on our passing and moving the puck up the ice. There”s always things to be working on, but right now we need to be better in three or four areas in particular.”

The Wolverines also focused on special teams for this weekend”s tournament. They will feature three different powerplay lines this weekend. One of those lines will be composed of three freshman forwards Milan Gajic, Dwight Helminen and Eric Nystrom along with Cammalleri.

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