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October 25, 2016 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

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Michigan needs more from its offense


t took just three seconds for
Alex Kile to score a goal that
ranks among the best of this

young season.

The senior forward emerged

from a routine
scrum near
the boards
with the puck,
on the ice
by all five
Michigan Tech
players. With
no teammates
near, he evaded
one defender
before falling
to his knees and sliding toward
the net.

And somehow, despite losing

his balance, he deked out Huskie
goaltender Matt Wintjes and
poked the puck into the net to
give No. 11 Michigan a 2-1 lead. It
was an amazing individual effort
— the type that will find its way
onto postseason highlight reels.

But the incredible goal from

Michigan’s co-captain only
illustrated the problem facing the
Wolverines early on this season:
an offense that lacks cohesion
and has relied on a steady diet
of individual performances like
Kile’s to stay afloat.

Sure, Michigan has a 3-1-1

record through five games, and
no one expected the Wolverines
to replicate the lethal attack
they had last season, when they
averaged 4.76 goals per game on
the strength of perhaps the best
line in all of college hockey.

If Michigan hopes to finish

in the top half of the Big Ten,
though — let alone make it back
to the postseason — it will need
to develop a more consistent
approach when it has the puck.

Perhaps some sporadic

moments from players new to
their roles are to be expected.

The standout performances

from new contributors have
been a pleasant surprise. A more
sustainable model of success,
though, would be more efficient
play across the board.

The Wolverines have been

outshot in all five games, and
while shots don’t often tell
the whole story, Michigan has
struggled to move or possess

the puck, tallying a Corsi For
percentage (a measure of puck
possession) of just 37.5 thus far.

The Wolverines’ average

goals per game and power-play
percentage don’t tell the full
story, either. Michigan averages
3.20 goals per game — good for
25th in the nation — and has
converted on
24 percent of its
power plays, but
there are far too
many instances
during both even-
strength play and
on the power play
when the attack
stagnates. Shots
are few and far
between and
Wolverines skate
up and down the ice, aimlessly
chasing dumped pucks.

Possession was rare in

Saturday’s game against
Michigan Tech, when the
Huskies controlled the puck
and subdued Michigan with an
aggressive forecheck — a tactic
that both Union and Ferris
State, Michigan’s previous two
opponents, also utilized to great

Michigan Tech

ended with a
27-shot advantage,
peppering 45
shots on goal
compared to
just 18 from the

To Michigan’s

credit, this isn’t an
issue that’s new
to them, and the
players have been

working on correcting it. They
know that being outplayed for
most of the game won’t always

lead to wins or ties, and they’ve
already heard from coach Red
Berenson and the rest of the staff.

“I mean, let’s face it, we

haven’t played the best teams in
the country yet,” Kile said after
Saturday’s game. “Once we play
Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn
State, we can’t play like this, or
else we’re going to lose.

“We’re going through some

growing pains, and we’re trying
to find our chemistry right now.
But I think we’re going to get
better. We got outplayed both
games this weekend, and we
were lucky to come out on top
last night and get the shootout
win today.”

Michigan freshman netminder

Jack LaFontaine, whose 42-save
performance Saturday helped
his team escape with the tie, was
more positive when it came to
evaluating his team.

“We’re a very clutch team,”

LaFontaine said. “When the
going gets tough, we get tougher.
And I think that’s good. But
today, coach Berenson was
talking about how we have to
play a full 60 (minutes), and
I personally see it as a silver
lining. If we can do this in the
third period, what’s going to
happen in a couple months with
the first and second periods?”

And it’s hard to argue with

LaFontaine. It’s difficult to know
just how good this team could be
if it sharpens up offensively.

But what’s clearer is what

the result will be if Michigan
continues to play inconsistently
into the bulk of its schedule — a
lot fewer wins and draws.

Sang can be reached at

otsang@umich.edu and on

Twitter @orion_sang.

Wolverines’ young players have stepped in well so far, but team must improve consistency for the long haul


Senior forward Alex Kile and Michigan have strung together some clutch goals in their five games this season, but the Wolverines still need to improve their puck movement.


“We haven’t

played the best

teams in the
country yet.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 // FACEOFF 2016

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