With any career or playoff debut, there’s always some added pressure.
So when both come in the same game, well, one can just imagine the flurry of emotions sophomore Eric Elmblad felt last Friday.
“There were definitely nerves, but just so much excitement, so much adrenaline pumping,” Elmblad said. His first action came less than six minutes into the contest, after Michigan’s first score. “I got over it quick though. I think (the early lead) helped me.”
A walk-on, Elmblad had never seen game time before. But after freshman defenseman Scooter Vaughan required surgery to repair his broken jaw suffered during the bye week while wrestling with a teammate off the ice, Elmblad became a favorite to take over as Michigan’s sixth defenseman.
The main issue, for coaches, was Elmblad’s lack of in-game experience. He hadn’t played in a game in more than two years and had been limited to relatively tame practice sessions. Michigan coach Red Berenson has reiterated on multiple occasions the difficulty of keeping up with the pace of the team when not playing in the weekend series. Against Nebraska-Omaha, Elmblad didn’t play nearly as much as the other five blueliners.
“It’s definitely a faster pace, it’s definitely more intense,” Elmblad said.
“The guys told me to keep it simple, everyone was giving me encouragement the whole time. They were behind me, and that helped that they believed in me, too.”
Elmblad’s family drove down from the Upper Peninsula to watch the game, and many friends and relatives listened to the game on the Internet. But they weren’t the only fans of his effort this weekend.
“I thought he looked good,” Berenson said. “I think it was good to see him play early, good to get him in the game in the first period and some confidence. It was the right kind of game to play him in and he played fine, so good for him.”
Killing the best: Coming into the Wolverines’ CCHA quarterfinal matchup with the Mavericks, there was one glaring mismatch for Michigan: Nebraska-Omaha’s power play versus Michigan’s penalty kill.
Two weekends ago, the Wolverines surrendered five power-play goals to Ferris State, which was then converting at a measly 14.9-percent clip, the 35th-best rate in the country. Michigan assistant coach Billy Powers felt the unit was “a little hesitant.”
But against the Mavericks’ top-ranked power-play unit, converting at 24.4 percent entering the weekend, Michigan was anything but that, holding Nebraska-Omaha to two goals in 12 chances on the man advantage.
“Our penalty killers were really dialed in,” Berenson said. “We were more aggressive. We were a lot more aggressive. We ran the passing lanes better, in the shooting lanes better, we pressured the puck more, rather than being on our heels. I felt we kept them on their heels.”
Injury update: Vaughan participated in practice yesterday, wearing a specially fitted helmet to protect his surgically repaired jaw. . Freshman Matt Rust did not practice yesterday but could return to the ice today, Berenson said. Rust suffered a hairline fracture to his fibula, a non-weight bearing bone in the ankle late last week.