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January 11, 2014

Offensive slump continues in 3-1 loss to Wisconsin

Here's the good news: Michigan's goalie play remains strong. Now the bad news: everything else is ruin, especially an offense that has netted just seven goals in its last five games. U-M only scored once Saturday, and the result was the same as the last three contests - a 3-1 loss to Wisconsin.

"Frustrated is a good word to describe it," senior captain Mac Bennett said. "It's frustrating when you're throwing pucks to the net, and they don't go in."

The Wolverines are playing with fire, wasting a wonderful opportunity this weekend to at least split a series with one of the two teams - Minnesota is the other - that figures to compete with U-M for the Big Ten title this season.

Though, vying for the conference championship is seeming less and less realistic for this team by the game after Michigan continues to show serious flaws offensively, defensively and on special teams.

For the third straight game, Michigan fell behind, putting enormous pressure on a team fighting for even a sliver of offense these days. Sophomore center Andrew Copp would draw the Maize and Blue even with his 11th marker this season at 17:44 of the first period but U-M went down again 2-1 midway through the second and was all but cooked when the Badgers went up 3-1 at 18:01 of the third.

"The go-ahead goal was a big goal," Berenson said. "We got back into the game with a power-play goal, and it was anyone's game after that. Both teams had chances. They put one of theirs in, and we couldn't."

Copp is, perhaps, the lone bright spot offensively right now, having scored a goal in back-to-back games after returning from the World Junior Championships.

"He's playing really well," Berenson said. "He came back from the World Juniors, and he was anxious to play, and he's playing with a lot of confidence. He's playing hard, and he's establishing himself again in the second half as one of our top players and good for him.

"We just need more players getting into that groove. Some of it's mental, some of it's physical, and some it's luck. But in Copp's case, he makes most of his luck by hard work."

Rookie goalie Zach Nagelvoort made his second straight start in net, breaking up the back-and-forth he and sophomore Steve Racine had been engaged in, and played well, recording 34 saves on 37 shots. Wisconsin scored when Nagelvoort was screened, on a rebound and on a breakaway.

While many are ready to panic, Bennett isn't one of them. A year ago the Wolverines slumped through an entire season before getting hot late. But too little too late. It is easy to draw parallels but Bennett will not.

"This year, at least we know we can play," he said. "We've had good times, and like any hockey season you have ups and downs. Unfortunately, we're a little bit down right now."


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