The Michigan hockey team beats a game Bentley Falcons’ squad from the AHA to up its record to 2-1 on the young season. Quotes from the post-game presser, and then some of my insights from tonight’s game.
Coach Berenson talks about coming back from being down a goal early…“In the 1st period, I thought we were trying to pass the puck too much, make the perfect play. That’s a rough goal for Steve Racine to give up, but we’re a strong team, and we know we have the firepower to come back. I told the team, ‘If you see someone open, give him the puck instantly, don’t try to be too cute with the puck.’ We don’t see teams from the AHA very often, so hopefully, this will get us ready for Miami next week.”
Berenson on Racine…“We never want to give up any goals against; I think Steve settled down as the game wore on, he made some really outstanding saves later on. Bentley’s a good team, they put some on net that he had to really find through traffic. We knew they were going to jump on our ‘D’ early, try to get us to make some mistakes, with all the injuries. It really helped us to have someone step up other than the top line.”
Berenson on the play of the 4th line, particularly Copp and Selman…”Selman made some great passes in the game, particularly to Andrew Copp. Both these guys haven’t seen much time, Copp was scratched last week, so good for them. Andrew’s getting a chance to show what he can do, he has to make his time count.”
AJ, after being asked about if he had ever had to knock in goals off of that many rebounds before…(laughs) No, never. I kept going hard to the net. Phil tries to make the cute pass a lot, he needs to get rid of it more often, I’ll remind him of that next time. I think we knew on that give-and-go that we wanted to wait until the absolute last possible second to shoot.”
- The first period went about as awful as it could go for Michigan, trailing early to Bentley, 1-0. As we’ve seen so many times before, Michigan was the better team, getting all kinds of chances that were close, but didn’t end up connecting; passes just missing, pucks coming off sticks, etc. The team just kind of did enough to appear as though they wanted to be in the game, without actually tying the score. I pesonally felt like the team was not as focused as they should’ve been…as Red said, trying to make the perfect play, when a chip ahead for a pass or a shot on goal will do. Sometimes, you need to “go to the dirty areas” to score goals, and I think Michigan was unwilling to do that in the 1st period. They did, eventually, however.
- Whatever Red said in the intermission, it worked. We came our firing in the 2nd period, getting an early goal from AJ on a rebound where he had to jam at it 3 times. The captain finally gets us on the scoresheet. As if it isn’t already obvious enough, the firepower of this 1st line absolutely blows you away. Phil looks as if he is content with being the facilitator, but I’m hoping AJ gets in his ear about shooting the puck more, because when he does, it’s going to be lights out for the opposition. The give-and-go effort between the two in the second period was just one of those highlight-reel goals that, if this game had been televised, you’d see for a long time. PDG picked up the puck in the neutral zone, skated across the blue line, dished to AJ, who faked a shot, passed it back to PDG, who made Bentley’s goaltender wait just long enough to commit to one side. He gave it right back to AJ, who had to shoot at an angle, but made no mistake. To be perfectly blunt: we’re going to have no trouble scoring goals this year, and if we get a more combined effort like we did tonight in conference play, we’ll be tough to beat. Mac Bennett and Derek DeBlois did a bunch on both ends of the ice to get involved; Red actually put Mac with Brennan Serville late in the game, and paired Trouba with Chiasson to get the balance of right and left shots, but I think he knows he’ll have to do a lot of this until both Merrill and Clare return. I bet we all didn’t think we’d have our defensive depth tested this early, did we?
- Goaltending continues to be an issue for us. It was a question mark entering the season, and it remains as such for me, right now. I think we’re averaging something like 4.00 a game, but giving up 3.66, conversely. That stat needs to change, and change immediately. Steve Racine is still getting his feet wet; he’s steadily improving, but still not at the level we need a Michigan goaltender to be at. I think it’s just a case for Steve where he needs to realize that he can’t give up the bad rebound at this level, and be successful. I saw way too many shots kicked back out into the slot upon the initial save. Can’t really fault the D, as they had to hustle to keep up with a quick and pesky Bentley team, but Racine is still getting comfortable. He froze the puck more tonight, I think to slow the fast-paced game down, and that may be something that will help him. It just takes time for freshmen goaltenders.
- Guppy’s 1st of the young campaign came off a nice play by Trouba to find Kevin Lynch streaking down the middle of the nice. Kevin threaded the defense, deked the goaltender, who made the initial save, but Phil followed up the play smartly, and banged the rebound into the empty net.
- This team may be a slow-starter, but when they turn their game up a notch, I think they’ll leave the opposition wondering what happened. The 2nd period especially was a barrage of shots for Michigan; Bentley had to have been feeling good, only to watch their young lead slip away on a lightning-quick Michigan offense. Michigan outshot the Falcons an astonishing 56-25(!). That says as much about our offense as defense, I think. I might update this post later if I can find when Michigan had that high of a final shot total.
- Finally, some much-needed recognition goes from my keyboard to to the involved and up-tempo effort of the so-called “4th line” tonight. These guys are not your typical grind it out, throw-your-body-around fourth-liners. Copp-Selman-Hyman all had a +2 on the night. On his goal, Andrew found some open space, took a pass from Selman from behind the net, and wristed that gorgeous feed into the back of the net. Congrats on your 1st, Andrew! What a way for him to make his presence felt after getting scratched last weekend; same can be said for Selman, who had 12 wins in the faceoff circle. Hyman also had a goal and an assist. Zach stuck with a broken play, found his own rebound, and stuffed it home. This effort tonight has got to make that line break out into a huge grin in the locker room.
There’s a lot I think we can all feel okay about right now, in regards to this team, and their expected offensive prowess. We’re lighting it up offensively, and it might be tough for just about anyone to stick with us for a full game. AJ is, in Red’s words, and to echo mine from last week, “playing like a man possessed, he’s a bull out there right now.” I’m observing that the defense is giving up fewer and fewer turnovers, and that’s a good thing with freshmen netminders. We took exactly ONE penalty tonight, and fired 56 SOG. That’s a lot of rubber. Let’s hope Clare and Johnny can return soon to give the team a boost, and to give the opposition less time to frustrate Steve and Jared. The Brotherhood comes to Ann Arbor next weekend for an early-season test. Let’s not make it fun for them.
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