It could be the most dreaded word in sports. Five letters that,
when uttered, instantly create a nauseous feeling in the stomach of
any competitor. For an athlete, the “s-word” is like an
old girlfriend or boyfriend — something that you
wholeheartedly attempt to steer clear of, but unfortunately run
into every so often. And right now sophomore Jeff Tambellini is
looking “the ex” right in the eyes.

Kate Green
JEFF LEHNERT/Daily
Jeff Tambellini looks to break out of his slump against Michigan State.

“I’d say he’s in a slump,” Michigan
coach Red Berenson said. “It’s pretty obvious when your
leading scorer hasn’t scored. But that happens to all the
scorers.”

Tambellini has paced Michigan offensively with a team-leading
nine goals. But the left wing has been sitting on the cusp of
double digits for two weeks, going scoreless the last four games
— three of which the Wolverines have lost.

“It’s not there,” Tambellini said. “It
hasn’t been there for the whole team.”

Having proven himself to be a dangerous offensive threat at the
start of the season, Tambellini has garnered increased defensive
interest lately.

“I think he has seen a little bit more pressure on him
from opposing teams — not pressure from himself or us —
but I think they’re paying extra attention to him especially
on the powerplay,” associate head coach Mel Pearson said.

Although Tambellini compiled 70 shots in the first 10 games,
he’s mustered just six attempts in the last four.

“He’s a little out of sync right now,” Pearson
said. “Sometimes when he should be shooting, he’s
passing and when he should be passing, he’s
shooting.”

“It’s funny, when you’re a scorer and you
don’t score, you’re going to start passing the
puck,” Berenson said. “Sometimes you’re so
unconfident or unsure that you’re going to start overpassing
the puck.”

With a big series coming up against Michigan State, Berenson
switched a few lines to try and spark some much-needed offense.
Center Andrew Ebbett swapped lines with freshman T.J. Hensick,
joining Tambellini and right wing Michael Woodford.

“Andrew’s a very good playmaker,” Pearson
said. “T.J.’s played with Jeff most of the year, but
T.J.’s a young player, and we’re trying to take some of
the heat off him a little bit.”

Ebbett’s 11 points (four goals, seven assists) are the
team’s third highest total. Playing the first 14 games with
Brandon Kaleniecki — Michigan’s second-leading scorer
with six goals — Ebbett has displayed an innate ability to
set up his left wing with many quality scoring opportunities.

“I think (Andrew and I are) going to work really
well,” Tambellini said. “He’s a good passer, he
sees the ice and hopefully we’ll click this
weekend.”

On Monday, Tambellini was one of 34 players invited to
Canada’s World Junior Championship team selection camp. The
Port Moody, British Columbia, native was the only U.S. college
player selected to try out for the under-20 team.

“For a Canadian kid, it’s something that everybody
dreams of,” Tambellini said. “It’s something that
the whole country takes pride in, so to be on that roster is pretty
special.”

Pearson believes this could alleviate some of Tambellini’s
stress.

“I know he’s got a lot on his mind,” Pearson
said. “The World Junior thing was weighing on his shoulders a
little bit, and they announced that.”

Last season, Tambellini led the Wolverines with 26 goals, but
suffered from a similar November meltdown, going six games without
a goal.

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