Michigan’s top scoring line would seem to strike fear into
opponents’ hearts. The combination of junior Dwight Helminen
at center, and sophomore Jeff Tambellini and junior Eric Nystrom on
his wings, it would appear to be a can’t-miss
combination.

Yet in recent weeks, this hasn’t been the case, as
Michigan’s No. 1 line has struggled to find the scoring
touch. It has been Michigan’s second line of T.J. Hensick,
Milan Gajic and Brandon Kaleniecki — dubbed the “Price
Club Line” because it scores in bunches — that has
produced the bulk of Michigan’s scoring over the past few
series.

But this weekend’s series against Miami gave
Michigan’s first line a chance to break out of its cold
spell. In a coaching switch, Michigan coach Red Berenson decided
not to match his top line with Miami’s top line. As a result,
rather than trying to shut down Miami’s best players,
Michigan’s top line could focus solely on offense.

The difference was immediately obvious, as the line combined for
four goals and two assists this weekend. Helminen had the biggest
breakout of the series, scoring an insurance marker on Friday. This
goal put Michigan up 3-1 after Miami had cut the lead to one.

“It felt great,” Helminen said. “We’ve
been working hard, but the puck just wasn’t going into the
net for us and the goal was big for us.”

Berenson added: “It was huge. Getting that third goal gave
us a little bit of a cushion.”

Helminen snapped a six-game stretch without a goal — his
last marker came as part of a four-goal outburst against Ohio State
on Jan. 10. Two of Michigan’s seven goals came off of
Helminen’s stick, bringing his season total to 10.

Nystrom also picked up a goal to cap the scoring on Friday
night. Tambellini, despite not lighting the lamp, notched 10 shots
this weekend. Several times he had great shots robbed by the Miami
goaltenders, and his facial expressions showed his frustration.

Miami goaltender Brandon Crawford-West made perhaps the best
save of the weekend against Tambellini. On Saturday, Tambellini
found an opening along the boards and ripped a booming shot toward
an opening along the near post, but Crawford-West made an amazing
glove save to rob Tambellini of a goal.

“I’ve said all along that’s not a checking
line,” Berenson said. “That should be our power line
and those are our three top returning goal scorers from last
season. They’re a line that should be able to play with
anyone, but should be able to outscore them. It was good to see
them on the board tonight.”

Mighty man advantage: The Michigan powerplay —
which at one time couldn’t seem to take advantage of its
man-advantage — has once again become a force to be reckoned
with. The Wolverines have scored a powerplay goal in their last
five games, and in 10 of their last 12. On Saturday, Michigan
scored on the powerplay three out of six times. Every game that
Michigan has drawn at least five powerplay opportunities, the
Wolverines were able to score on at least one of those chances.

“We saw against Alaska-Fairbanks that special teams are
going to play a part in the game and it can win or lose hockey
games for you, and tonight it was our powerplay and our penalty
kill,” senior Andy Burnes said. “Our powerplay has been
clicking of late and it’s been good. They’ve been
producing for our team.”

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