Senior Louie Caporusso called Michigan’s loss to Michigan State the prior week a wake up call. Unfortunately, the team hit the snooze button this past weekend.
After a somewhat decent game Friday before a third period meltdown, Saturday was a complete bomb. It was about as inspiring as Miami chants are original (seriously, stealing a goal chant word for word that we had already stolen from Cornell?). Live blog poster sec 22 said it was like watching the Globetrotters against the Washington Generals and I don’t think I need to tell you which team the Wolverines resembled.
Miami took us to school Saturday night in every aspect of the game. Our power play is horrendous. The penalty kill is even worse. Stupid penalty after stupid penalty. Shawn Hunwick did all he could in goal, but got no support on either end of the ice. Reilly Smith’s second goal was a perfect example of that. Hunwick made the initial stop on a breakaway and Smith skates past FOUR Michigan players to get the rebound and pop it in. Sense of urgency? Those of us watching on TV were all urgent for the game to be over with.
Red Berenson has always said your best players have to be your best players and with this team it starts with the seniors. It has to because the quality of depth of this team isn’t what it used to be. Unfortunately, outside of Carl Hagelin, our best players have been pretty disappointing. Shredder has a good synopsis of the senior class.
If I had said before the season defenseman-turned-forward 3rd/4th liner Scooter Vaughan would have more goals than Louie Caporusso and Matt Rust, everyone would have laughed. But that’s the situation we are in. Caporusso has gone from a Hobey Baker top 10 finalist his sophomore year and back-to-back 20+ goal seasons to eight goals as we near the home stretch. Rust had a career year last season with 13-27-40 in 45 games. Both his goals and assists were career highs. But with just four goals and 15 assists in 30 games this season, he’s on pace to fall short of last year’s production. And considering Caporusso and Rust have centered the top two lines all season, it should be no surprised that as their offensive production has fallen, so, too, has the Wolverines goal output.
But other players expected to step up haven’t, either. Former CCHA Rookie of the Year David Wohlberg, coming off a disappointing sophomore year, looked like he was making a rebound and had a nice five-game point streak over the holidays and was playing strong. He was getting chances and creating chances. But he has been held pointless in seven of the past eight games and decided to take over for Tristin Llewellyn by taking the most unnecessary, untimely penalties (i.e. getting beat on an icing call and assisting the RedHawk player in to the end boards at the end of the Miami game as U-M was trying to mount a comeback).
Chris Brown, a finalist for CCHA Rookie of the Year last season, has suffered a bit of the sophomore slump. Coming off 15-15-30 his freshman season, Brown has four goals and ten assists in 28 games this season. He suffered a six game scoreless streak earlier this season and spent time on the 3rd and 4th lines. He spent a few games in January back on the top line as he broke out of his scoring slump but has missed some quality chances and got taken off the top line this past weekend as the Wolverines tried to get Kevin Lynch going. I’ve been a big supporter of Brown all season and, while his numbers don’t reflected it, he has played well even during the slump. Still, at the end of the day, it’s a numbers game and he has got to start finishing more of his chances.
Like Brown, Lynch is another second round draft pick who is riding a 16 game scoreless streak. Lynch struggled the first half of his freshman year but had a good second half. He got off to a decent start this season and posted back-to-back multi-point games against Lake Superior State in November. And he hasn’t had a point since. It’s not like he hasn’t had his chances, including a penalty shot against Miami this past weekend, which RedHawks goalie Cody Reichard made the save look all too easy.
While the guys expected to produce are struggling, the younger guys not expected to carry the load have been making some strides. Sophomore forward A.J. Treais celebrated his birthday Friday night by scoring a pair of goals. His eight goals and seven assists are career highs and he has certainly been playing with more confidence of late, which is good considering he’ll have a much bigger role on next year’s team. Here are Treais’s goals from Friday night:
Freshman Luke Moffatt only has one point over the last eight games but has played solid with and without the puck. Hopefully his hard work starts to get rewarded a bit more.
Treais and Moffatt are going to get their opportunity, too, as Berenson is shaking up the line chart big time this week. Your top four lines are now as follows:
Getting swept this past weekend dropped Michigan to 12th in the PairWise Rankings. Notre Dame is one spot ahead of them and Western Michigan, who they face in two weeks, is one spot below. This weekend’s opponent Ohio State is ranked 26th in the PWR, so this is a big four game home stand as the regular season nears the end.