The Wolverine

November 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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hear them, and the best thing we could have done was answer those questions with a loud statement. I think we���ve done that.��� Sparking The Offense Though always talented, Sparks could not land a regular spot in the lineup with the Wolverines his first two seasons. The 5-9, 176-pounder appeared in just five of Michigan���s first 17 games during his rookie year. He would play in eight straight contests to close out the regular season, but after finishing that stretch with just a single assist Sparks was benched for the entire postseason. In his sophomore year, Sparks was again in and out of the lineup, enjoying only one stint in which he played in more than three consecutive games. The junior seemed to gain his coaches��� trust in the CCHA playoffs, scoring three goals with an assist in four games, but he was a healthy scratch in U-M���s four NCAA Tournament contests, proving he hadn���t yet won over his coaches entirely. Berenson���s issue with Sparks wasn���t, despite popular opinion, his lax play defensively, but focused on his offensive impact or lack thereof. ���Part of his problem last year was we���d put him on the power play and he���d lose the puck or he���d turn it over,��� Berenson said. ���You can���t put a guy out there if he keeps losing the puck or not producing. ���But he���s just a different player this year. He���s playing with a lot more jump, a lot more confidence. He���s taken advantage of his opportunity. He���s demanding to play by the way he plays.��� The past is the past for Sparks, and he���s committed to be a consistent contributor for Michigan this season and next. ���I was very similar to players we had on our top two lines that were proven performers, and proven goal scorers, so there wasn���t a place for me to be in the lineup every single night last year,��� he said. ���But I���m going to try to step up in my final two years and play the role I would have liked to play my first two years. ���I���d like to say that I knew I���d be off to this kind of start. I was pretty optimistic. Some things have gone in for me and maybe I���ve been a little lucky at times, but hard work has paid off. 100��� the wolverine��� ������ November 2011 ���I���ve always wanted to be an every-night guy. I just needed the right opportunity and had to run with it. It���s coming now, and I���m determined to keep taking advantage of the opportunity.��� While Sparks, who has scored a goal in four of eight games and has tallied a point in six of eight, was a bit of an unknown coming into the season, Treais was the focal point for those that felt the offense would hum along despite Michigan���s departures. Junior A.J. Treais scored five goals with four assists in U-M���s 6-1-1 start to the season. Photo by Lon horwedel Though he registered just 16 goals and 19 assists in 86 career contests his first two seasons, Treais created highlight-reel scoring opportunities both for himself and his teammates. He has always possessed the ability to score 20 goals and add 30 assists, but was limited by circumstance, playing third-line center behind Rust and Caporusso. This season, however, the 5-8, 178-pounder has averaged more ice time and is producing, scoring five goals with four assists in eight games. He has started the season taking 3.0 shots per game compared to 1.6 per game in his first two years combined. ���A.J. is starting to come into his own now, he���s starting to play with that confidence and offensive skill level that he had when he was young, but maybe he couldn���t put it all together,��� Berenson said. ���He���s starting to put it together.��� ���For two years I was playing right below Carl and Louie, waiting for my time to shine,��� Treais added. ���I think this could be my year to break out and show people I can put up a lot of points. ���I think a lot of guys on our team feel that way. Everyone in their own mind is thinking, ���I���m going to be that guy to step up��� and that���s shown on the scoreboard.��� More Where That Came From Though Sparks and Treais paced the Maize and Blue to start the season, they were not carrying the burden of offensive responsibility alone. Senior winger David Wohlberg had 10 points, including three goals, in eight games while senior right wing Luke Glendening had already notched four goals. The Wolverines enjoyed balanced scoring thanks to upperclassmen relishing their larger opportunities and because U-M���s freshmen may be better than advertised. Rookie Phil Di Giuseppe (five markers) is one of three freshman forwards with at least three goals already this season. ���Phil is the most surprising to me because I didn���t know anything about him coming in,��� Treais said. ���That first practice he showed me he had good hands, a good shot, and he creates a lot of space for himself during the games.��� Zach Hyman, the most heralded of the first-year skaters, hasn���t contributed much ��� just a goal and three assists thus far ��� but he���s looked capable, and should team with Di�� Giuseppe, Alex Guptill and Travis Lynch to continue adding an offensive punch. ���When you look at the score sheet, we���re getting production from everyone,��� senior defender Greg Pateryn said. ���It���s not just our seniors ��� it���s our freshmen, juniors, sophomores. It���s good that we���re getting help from all of our lines. It shows how much depth we have up front.��� Challenges Remain ���It���s still early,��� Sparks said. ���I think we���ll know a lot more about our offense, and our team, when we get to Christmas.��� Michigan played only four games against CCHA opponents through Oct.�� 31, and in those four contests, U-M averaged 3.75 goals per game. Still good enough to win, but not the 6.00 markers per contest they averaged during the non-conference.

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