Lots on the Line for Michigan
by Michael Florek/CHN Reporter
ANN ARBOR, Mich. Although vastly different in playing style and backgrounds, both of Michigan’s captains are a microcosm of the Wolverines season thus far.
One is senior forward Carl Hagelin. The speedy Swede provides a glimpse to the high-scoring Michigan past. He has 35 points, in 28 games to lead the team and had nine game point streak, which was broken this past Saturday. Although talked about earlier in the season as a possible Hobey Baker finalist, Hagelin has dropped off the radar despite being tied for 10th in the nation in points.
On the other side is junior forward Luke Glendening. As a grinder, Glendening isn’t measured in points. Still, the former walk-on has solidified a spot on the second line and finds a way to do the little things — whether it’s going into the corners to dig out the puck or killing penalties.
Neither is particularly vocal, to the media or the team. Instead they are content to fly under the radar and let their play do the talking. And so is Michigan.
“No matter how you look at it, we have something to prove,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said this week.
The Wolverines, taking parts from both captains’ games, have quietly jumped out to a 17-7-4 record and have won nine of their past 11 games (both losses were to Michigan State). Yet, during their five game win streak — which was ended last Saturday against Michigan State — Michigan moved up just one spot in the polls.
“I’ve been here maybe too long, because we’re used to being a team that gets recognition in the polls because we’ve had years where we’re the number one team or the number two team, or top-three team all year,” Berenson said. “And it didn’t matter. It seemed to hurt us more than help us. I don’t take a lot of stock in it, but I think any of the top 15 teams on a given night could be the team.”
Essentially, Berenson is saying that his teams with high expectations have, perhaps, underachieved in the NCAAs. The Wolverines have been the dominant team in the CCHA for more than 20 years. But with the rise of Miami and Notre Dame, it has competition these days for that mantle. And in recent years, those teams have performed better, particularly Miami, in the NCAAs.
Consequently, it's been easy to overlook Michigan this season, a team without as many outright stars as you could point to in the past.
Yet despite the gaudy numbers and win streaks, the team knows it hasn’t been playing to where it needs to be. The Wolverines defense has been suspect in the past month. Michigan has been outshot in the past three games, but has been bailed out by the offense, senior goalie Shawn Hunwick and a little luck on any given night.
For whatever reason, the team hasn’t been able to click consistently, even as they wins games. But fortunately for the Wolverines, the fix is simple.
“More grit,” Hagelin said. “I think that’s a big part, just making sure you win battles. Don’t just stop working. I think it has a lot to do with just skating, being sure to be the first guy on the puck and more hits.”
On the ice, the pucks have been bouncing Michigan’s had the puck luck way. Two weeks ago against Alaska the Nanooks missed a wide open net on a 2-on-0. Last week in a loss to the Michigan State, senior forward Louie Caporusso scored after a puck inexplicably slide past two
Spartan sticks and landed on his.
Off the ice, the Wolverines’ schedule has allowed them to win despite not playing up to their potential. They haven’t played a ranked team since they played No. 15 Minnesota on Thanksgiving weekend.
“You could say you’re close, but you’re not close until you take some serious steps,” Berenson said. “And that means you’ve got to prove yourself against some of these top teams.”
Michigan will get its opportunity this weekend as they travel to Oxford to take on No. 13 Miami. The Wolverines are just one point behind Notre Dame for the CCHA lead. And for better or worse, come Sunday, the Wolverines will be a blip on the national radar.