A decidedly more jovial Michigan hockey team took the ice for practice this week. Fresh off of two convincing victories against Ferris State this past weekend, a little more jump in the skates is natural.
The Wolverines played their best hockey in over a month against the hapless Bulldogs, but it wasn”t accidental.
The buzz word amongst the team urgency. The sense of duty that seems to creep into every player”s approach when the reality of a one-game season replaces the security of after-loss clichs like “there”s always next weekend.”
“It was a mentality more than anything else,” assistant coach Billy Powers said. “You saw a hungry team realizing that one goal against can end your season that sense of urgency has to continue.”
The desperation of Michigan”s hockey trickled down to some areas of recent concern:
1. Powerplay. The Wolverines converted 30 percent of their extra-man chances this weekend, as opposed to about half that percentage in their previous two games. The percentage improvement only accentuates the change on the ice.
Michigan puckhandled and passed with fluidity against Ferris State. The goal total on the powerplay might stand at eight instead of four had goalie Phil Osaer not made several up-close saves most notably in the second game when Mark Kosick and Josh Langfeld were both stumped at the doorstep.
“We want to keep their penalty killing unit going and keep them on their toes,” Powers said. “You do that by moving the puck.”
The move of Mike Cammalleri from the point to down-low created several in-close opportunities. Both Cammalleri and the coaching staff are happy with the change.
“I think he can play both as you saw, he”s dangerous in both situations, but with a couple of shorthanded goals coming against us in recent weeks, we decided to put just defensemen back there,” Berenson said.
2. Intensity. The “parity in the CCHA” is no longer a convenient cop-out for Michigan it”s a legitimate concern.
Bowling Green, the lowest seed ever to crack the semifinals of the CCHA tournament after knocking off Miami and Northern Michigan, is this year”s Cinderella and proof of the league”s growing strength.
Just the same, the Wolverines played down to the level of many lesser teams this season, but showed a flicker of the intangibles against Ferris State, which could launch them into April.
“The guys are realizing that we have a great team and we don”t want to regret something down the road, and say “we could have done this, we could have done that,”” senior forward Bill Trainor said. “We realize that this is the playoffs.”
The extra mustard on shots and the extra attention to detail on defense isn”t lost on the coaching staff.
“There”s a bit more urgency, like “hey if we don”t get this going we”ll be in trouble,”” Powers said.
Injury Update: Cammalleri has missed practice the past two days, while Kosick did not dress yesterday. Both are battling sickness.
“Cammalleri looked like a ghost today,” Berenson said.
The availability of both players for Friday will likely be determined by whether or not they practice today, Berenson noted.
Defenseman Dave Huntzicker who left Friday night”s game and sat out Saturday night with an injury to his right shoulder has reported no ill effects in practice this week and should be ready to play against Nebraska-Omaha.