No player on the Michigan hockey team wants to be invisible for an extended period of the season, least of all a captain.
But until last weekend, senior forward David Wohlberg was in danger of going more than a month without putting any points on the board. This was unsettling for Michigan coach Red Berenson.
“Wohlberg should be a marked man,” Berenson said. “But right now, no one knows he’s on our team.”
It’s certainly a turnaround for someone who has already proven himself as a capable scorer — Wohlberg currently leads the team with 89 career points. And it’s a disappointment for a player that suffered a season-ending collarbone injury last March and was sidelined during Michigan’s run to the national championship game.
Even earlier this season, Wohlberg was making noise. He posted the team’s season-high number of points in a game, and his position as an alternate captain made him a valued commander of the forward corps.
But then came Oct. 27. As Michigan celebrated a 5-2 victory over Ferris State, no one would have suspected it would be the beginning of a month-long point drought for Wohlberg.
Now No. 19 Michigan (3-5-2 CCHA, 7-7-2 overall) wants to get him back in the box score.
“(Wohlberg) got into this mode where every time you get to the puck, you slow down and try and do something cute,” Berenson said. “That doesn’t work. He should know this by now (and) we’ve had to revisit this with him.”
All season, Berenson has said that the Wolverines aren’t using their speed effectively to chase the puck and make important plays.
Wohlberg sees the wisdom in those words now.
The dry spell was broken in the game against Union on Sunday when skaters piled up in front of the Dutchmen net. Wohlberg found the loose puck in the commotion and slid it in past the bodies.
The goal wasn’t particularly pretty — more of being in the right place at the right time — but it did the trick. And Wohlberg knows he has to convert on those opportunities more frequently.
“It’s just working hard, going to the net and playing gritty,” Wohlberg said. “You have to move forward. You can’t sit back and expect (the puck) to come to you, you have to go to the puck and put it in.”
Berenson also switched the lines on Sunday, hoping that different dynamics would help jump-start Wohlberg’s game. Though Wohlberg has skated with fellow senior Luke Glendening for nearly four years, the pairing with juniors Chris Brown and Kevin Lynch was welcomed.
“When you’re in a slump, you’ve got to change something up,” Wohlberg said. “I think (changing lines) might have helped my game to the point where I got out of my comfort zone and I needed to do more.”
There’s never a good time for a month-long pointless streak, and Berenson knows that Wohlberg is a better player than what the box score has indicated.
But there’s also outside pressure on Wohlberg to play well. As one of the team leaders, there’s an expectation for him to be racking up the points.
Wohlberg is all too aware of this and admits that it’s motivation to put points on the board.
“I feel like since I’m an older guy, I should step up and be one of those (scorers),” Wohlberg said. “I put pressure on myself because we don’t have that guy yet.”
With the Wolverines in the midst of a six-game winless streak, Berenson hopes that Wohlberg’s return to the stat sheet will coincide with a team revival.
“The team needs him to take a step (and) hopefully this weekend he’ll take another,” Berenson said. “All you need is a goal to jump-start confidence. But in the meantime, he knows we’re not satisfied with what he’s done at this point.”