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The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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26 THE WOLVERINE MAY 2020 BY CHRIS BALAS I nconsistent might be the best word to describe the Michigan hockey team in the first half of its season. It was a squad that seemed to have trouble bury- ing scoring chances and putting wins together. The Wolverines started the sea- son 3-7-2, including a pair of home losses to in-state rival Michigan State, dropped as low as five games under .500 at 4-9-2 and seemed to be the lon- gest of long shots to make the NCAA Tournament as of mid-November. Even then, however, they had one constant working in their favor — sophomore goaltender Strauss Mann. Though he would never take credit for it, Mann was one of the primary reasons the Wolverines still had hope to turn their season around. He pitched a pair of shutouts in October, continued to improve and helped lead Michigan to a tie for second in the Big Ten, three points behind first- place Penn State. The Wolverines were at No. 14 in the Pairwise Rankings used to de- termine the 16-team NCAA Tourna- ment field after Mann and his team- mates shut Michigan State out twice at home, 3-0 both times, to sweep a first-round Big Ten Tournament series before COVID-19 concerns abruptly ended their campaign. Mann allowed only a goal or less in eight out of his last 17 games. The Wolverines went 11-4-2 during that stretch. "I don't think I elevated my game, or our team — we were pretty consis- tent, and I felt I was pretty consistent all year," he said. "We weren't really scoring at the beginning of the year, and that can kind of lead to lack of confidence. You start to lose a couple and then you start to think you're go- ing to lose the next close game." U-M started with a clean slate in the second half of the year, beginning with pair of wins at Notre Dame, 3-0 and 3-1, in which Mann stopped 56 of 57 shots from the nation's No. 14 team. At the time, it was just the second sweep of the year for the Wol- verines, the first since Lake Superior State in the second series of the sea- son in mid-October. MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR STRAUSS MANN The Mann Hockey Goaltender Strauss Mann Was Elite In Net This Year

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