The Michigan hockey team leaves for New York City today in anticipation of a matchup with Cornell Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Though victorious Wednesday against Bowling Green, U-M is still not where it wants to be.
The Maize and Blue are just 5-6-1 overall, at least ending a three-game losing streak with its win over the Falcons. However, head coach Red Berenson isn't happy with the way his team has been playing, noting the Maize and Blue are surrendering goals - 3.33 per game - at an unacceptable rate.
"Our goals for are, in theory, a strength, but the goals against kill you," Berenson said. "As I'm talking to our team I'm telling them, 'We can't outscore our mistakes. Simple as that.'"
That message seems to be at least penetrating the minds of the Wolverines, but hearing those words and putting them into action are two different things.
"We're one of the worst teams in the country defensively, and that's something we need to fix," senior center Kevin Lynch said. "That's through hard work. We might go through some struggles offensively but there is no excuse for playing bad defense.
"We're just making mental errors and making mistakes. We're not playing a full 60 minutes."
Berenson hasn't resorted to ripping into his players, believing that line of motivation, while never popular with him, would be especially damaging with this team, but he also has made it clear that the Wolverines cannot keep playing the way they have.
"Right now they're just trying to survive. They're trying to play better," he said. "We're not far off. I'm not happy with a lot of our individual efforts and our performances and so on, but as a team we're not that far off. Now we're a long ways off from where a Michigan team could and should be, but this is our team, and this is our schedule, and we're giving it our best."
A year ago, defenseman Jon Merrill swooped in during the second half of the season - following a first-half suspension - and saved the Maize and Blue, but Berenson indicated Merrill, out since the year's start with a cracked vertebrae, won't be coming back anytime soon. Besides, the Wolverines can't expect one man to change their fortunes overnight.
"It's going to be a long wait," said Berenson, who didn't offer a timetable on Merrill's return. "We know he's not going to be in the lineup for weeks or maybe months. This is not like he's going to play Saturday."
"I don't think it's our thought process that Jon will make everything better," junior defenseman Mac Bennett said. "It's a matter of finding our identity and once we get that, everything will start clicking for us and we'll start going. We just have to keep our heads up and keep working hard."
Michigan can even up its record with a win over the Big Red in Madison Square Garden. Cornell hasn't started great either, going just 3-3-2 this season and hasn't won since Nov. 2, going 0-3-2 in its last five. If U-M is to take a step forward, now is the perfect time to start.