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Michigan Hockey Romps Niagara 7-3

Some notes following tonight's [somber] defeat of Niagara.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Michigan Hockey earned itself a win at Yost on Friday evening, routing Niagara by a score of 7-3.

There's a certain feeling that washes over you, a piece of the human condition that emphasizes an unbreakable fraternity with total strangers. The usual boisterous conversation mixed in with music and slews of advertisements took a backseat to staring at phones, faces awash in disbelief, trying to make light and put logic to the events unfolding thousands of miles across an ocean.

With two major athletic events taking place on campus this evening, crying hearts were given a dose of medicine in the form of distraction.

On military appreciation night at Yost, patriotic music boomed out of the bells of tubas and euphoniums, providing warm escape from the cold reality of an ever-changing world as the Wolverines came out strongly against the unseeded Purple Eagles, at least in the eyes of the fans.

Berenson wasn't exactly enthused with his team's overall play.

"It was good to get back into a game," said Red Berenson about the week off. "I thought we executed a lot better tonight. And let's face it, a lot of those pucks were pucks that needed to get through from the point."

From even the very start of this game, these teams were no match for each other. An onslaught of goals was quickly replaced with physical pandemonium.

At any rate, Michigan was faced with a multitude of issues in its own end and off the puck. Berenson was still unhappy with his defense after surrendering three goals to a winless Niagara team.

"I can't say we were especially good defensively," he said.

With a combination of bad pinches leading to odd man-rushes against along with poor in-zone positioning, Berenson still found a lot to be desired from his team and its lack of off-the-puck prowess.

Nevertheless, Michigan can be happy with its offense so far this season, averaging an even four goals per game coming into Friday's contest. It's certainly an area that has made tremendous strides since the beginning of the postseason drought, but it's not enough to cover up what Berenson sees as nothing short of dismal on the other side of the puck.

"It's a game of mistakes. You're always going to make mistakes, Berenson said. "You just don't want to make mistakes over and over again that cost you goals"

***

The players weren't 100% eye to eye with Berenson.

"I don't think that the goals we gave up were too many downfalls on the defensive side [sic]," said Brendan Warren.

It's a work in process with regards to working around the zone and balancing play out, but the players talked a lot about how comfortable they are with their offense, but more or less they want to become hard to play against.

"I think having Freshmen like Boka and Cecconi ... playing more of a physical game," said Zach Werenski. "I think we have more experience this year. We've been hearing for over a year now [Coach Berenson] talk about playing stingier in the defensive end.

"You definitely have to find balance of when to jump and you have to read the play," Werenski continued. "First and foremost you have to keep the puck out of your net; picking and choosing your moments, when to [pinch], you just have to have confidence and be able to get back [on defense] in time."

***

Zach Werenski wasn't very happy with his play tonight, despite landing on the scoresheet with a goal and an assist, he felt as though being on the ice for two goals against was lackadaisical and unnecessary.

He left Thursday's practice a bit early due to being a tad under the weather, and looked a bit slower tonight with his skating, but still held his own.

Kyle Connor took a bit of a sucker punch after his second goal, but he was in good spirits and fully healthy after the game.

***

Michigan put five forwards on the ice for the powerplay, resulting in one of the two Michigan powerplay goals on the night. I've seen them experiment with this in practice a little bit and I'm never really a proponent of it, but it worked. JT Compher was great on the point and was able to effectively keep the puck moving and get shots through, landing a primary assist.

The powerplay was fine, the kill was fine, and goaltending still needs a bit of work, but this is a team that looks leaky at best heading into a harder schedule next week against Boston University.

Berenson talked about the in-zone puck movement on both sides, but he spoke keenly about the team trying way too hard to make a harder play, ignoring easy opportunities in all three zones, equivalent to trying to do a math proof of 2+2. He saw the sloppiness as partly attributable to rust, some anxiousness, but mostly as a result of trying too hard.

Michigan will be fine in a weaker Big Ten this year, but the unevenness of the schedule doesn't do them many favors. So far, they're off to a 5-1-1 start.