In times like these, it pays to have a seasoned coach to put things into perspective.
Coming off two back-to-back frustrating home losses could be devastating for a young team, even building to an emotional funk and a run of losses.
Enter Michigan Hockey Coach Red Berenson. In his 17 years of coaching, Berenson has experienced painful losses and some exhilarating victories. Though the Michigan icers are starting off with one of the poorest records in recent memory, this weekend's frustrating losses to a very good Northern Michigan team are not a sign of a declining program, he warns.
"I thought we played well on Friday and we played tough through most of Saturday's game," Berenson says. "It's just unfortunate an unfortunate goal on Friday night."
His remarks came Tuesday night during his regular radio show on WTKA (1050 AM) with host Jim Hunt.
"When you lose a game, especially as a college player, you feel bad. It's absolutely devastating," Berenson says. "The emotional outcome of the game for the players is huge. Yet as a coach, when you look at the films of the game, the way we played is what really matters."
"I hope fans are patient," he adds, "We're going to be in some close hockey games, at least for the first half of the season. We just need to tweak a few things."
The Wildcats took a 1-0 decision 53 seconds into overtime on Friday night and followed it with a 5-3 win over the Wolverines on Saturday. The Wildcats scored three times on the powerplay on Saturday.
Michigan has scored only 9 goals in four games, dating back to the 3-1 loss at Western Michigan on October 20. Michigan is 1-3 in those four games.
Berenson says coaches will stress playing better defense to give senior netminder Josh Blackburn more help. In the overtime on Friday, Blackburn was blocked and admitted that he didn't even see the puck on the score. The coaches will also work on correcting some positional errors they saw on Saturday, especially among some of the freshmen.
Michigan played without injured forwards Captain Jed Ortmeyer and senior Craig Murray and junior defenseman Mike Roemensky. Only Ortmeyer will make the trip to Alaska Fairbanks on this two-game road trip. The Wolverines leave Wednesday for Alaska and will arrive home on Sunday night. Game time is 11 p.m. EST both nights. WTKA will carry the games.
Michigan coaches believe that this road trip to play the Nanooks could affect the team's confidence down the road.
Besides the time change, UM will have to adjust to the rink. UAF plays on an Olympic-sized rink, one of only a handful Michigan players see during a season. Passing and defensive moves are slightly different and goalies have to adjust to covering different angles because of the size of the rink.
"It's a long season and I think we can do better," Berenson says. "I see a lot of good things with this team."