The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 7A
Andrew Sinelli's path from forward to defense
in a t
By GREG GARNO ry against Niagara, Michigan was
Daily Sports Editor left missing two of its six start-
ers on defense. Lohan remained
mewhere on the bench out with a knee injury since the
g Wednesday practices, beginning of the month, and
ew Sinelli watches on. He Michigan coach Red Berenson
unched over and staring at had few options to turn to.
ner life play out in front of That Monday, Nov. 25, of
practice, Sinelli arrived at his stall
e forwards take turns skat- in the locker room to find a dark
th the puck from the faceoff blue jersey hanging. Designated
and skate downto the net in for defensemen to wear in
anner of a shootout. They're practice, the dark blue jersey
cing for that one-on-one separates which teammates
ion when they need to score. practice with whom.
ne celebrate when they "Do you notice anything new?"
while others rush Berenson asked.
to the bench after being "Well, it looks like I'm a
walled. But there sits Sinelli, defenseman," Sinelli responded.
dark blue jersey designated "Yeah. But we'll see how well
fensemen, watching on. you skate," Berenson remarked
ne point, the junior forward before he walked away.
sat player drivingto the net, It was the last real interaction
ng for his chance to be one regarding his position Sinelli
12 starting forwards for the remembers having with his
gan hockey team. Now, he's coaching staff - which has
g his niche as a defenseman remained quiet since.
ransition from forward to "I just thought I was going to
airs. fill in," he said with a smile. "I
Sinelli has not only made definitely didn't expect to be on
ansition to fill in for injured defense this long."
man defenseman Kevin Since Nov. 29 against Ohio
n, he's also provided stabil- State, Sinelli has not missed a
position that was inexperi- game playing alongside senior
from the start of the season, defenseman Kevin Clare.
Junior forward Andrew Sinelli played three games before he transitinned In heist a dlefenseman - a position in which he has started 13 consecutive games.
And that presence has been key to
how the 10th-ranked Wolverines
have performed in the Big Ten.
"He's defensive-minded and
fast enough that he can make
up for mistakes. He plays a
pretty simple game," said senior
defenseman Mac Bennett. "And
he's done it unbelievably well.
"If you took any other forward
and put him at defenseman, I
don't think they'd do as good a job
The switch wasn't out of
choice, but rather out of need.
After junior defenseman Bren-
nan Serville suffered a head inju-
However, Sinelli isn't the
first forward in program
history to move from forward
to defenseman. Just last year,
former forward Jeff Rohrkemper
was called upon to fill that role
after former defenseman Jacob
Trouba was suspended.
But the difference between the
two is that Rohrkemper filled in
sparingly - a temporary replace-
ment who was otherwise left to
fight for ice time as a forward.
"Most hockey players will tell
you to get them in the game,"
Rohrkemper said, "they'll play
any position you want."
The transition from forward to
defenseman requires an advanced
ability to skate. The defenseman
must be able to excel at skating
backward fast enough to keep
up with streaking forwards and
pivot quick enough to square up,
nuances that both Rohrkemper
and Sinelli had to embrace.
It also helps to have a large
body frame, which neither
Rohrkemper nor Sinelli possess.
At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds,
Sinelli lacks the height and
weight of some of his teammates
and some opposing forwards.
But what's tougher is playing
like he's 6-foot-3 and more than
"I think the toughest part is
just to play with confidence,"
Rohrkemper said. "But one thing
that benefited me and one thing
that benefits Andrew is being a
reliable forward defensively. If
you already have the confidence
and ability to play well defensively,
that factors in."
It's difficult to measure how
Sinelli has performed this
season at defenseman. Unlike
the forward position, which uses
goals and assists as the best way
to measure success, defense has
little to reference.
"It's a position where you're
graded on who has the fewest
mistakes," Berenson said.
In his time since then,
Sinelli's minus-five rating
doesn't necessarily indicate his
performance. But more telling
may be that Michigan has won 10
of the 13 games Sinelli has been
on the ice as a defenseman.
Even more telling is the 2.16
goals-against average that the
Wolverines have posted in the
past six games with Sinelli's
"I've definitely had my
struggles but think it went
smoother than I thought," Sinelli
said. "My skating really helps.
I've been pretty steady. I haven't
done anything spectacular, but
I haven't done anything that's
negatively affected us."
Added Bennett: "He's a guy
that we kind of rely on, so we have
to makesure he keepsgoinginthe
right direction." '
With each game, Sinelli
continues to improve, getting
more physical in front of the net,
pushing the puck forward or
making a hit worthy of a replay.
Before his switch to defense-
man, Andrew Sinelli played in
three games. He finished with
one assist and a plus-one rating.
But with a depth chart stocked
with forwards, playing time
became an increasing struggle.
He'll be the first to tell you that
he wasn't scoring goals before the
switch, so it's not the end of the
world to play in a new position.
"It might be the best thing he
ever did," Berenson said.
Added Sinelli: "I'm just kind
of grasping the opportunity and
making sure I don't lose it. I'm
just happy to help any way I can."
Sinelli's 6-foot-5 wingspan
separates him from other play-
ers. It's noticeable, and it allows
him to get away with using a
shorter stick forwards use in
practice and games.
He's never had a need to switch
sticks until now. But part of him
won't give that up. It's all he has
left to feel like one of the forwards.
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