The Wolverine

January 2013

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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the onus is on the players now. They need to starting winning fast." A Mathematical Possibility Michigan's streak of 22 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is a college hockey record, however at 6‑9‑2, boasting a winning percentage of just .412, the Maize and Blue, obvi‑ ously, must start winning, and win‑ ning at a high clip to even be consid‑ ered for an at-large berth. U-M could also earn an automatic berth by win‑ ning the CCHA Tournament in March. According to Matt Latham, a Pair‑ wise expert and NCAA Tournament prognosticator used by multiple col‑ lege hockey sites, only one team has earned an at-large bid with a sub-.500 record in the last 10 years — Wiscon‑ sin, which went 15-16-7 (.487) in 2008. Over the past decade, the final team to make the NCAA postseason — the last at-large spot for which Michigan is likely competing — boasted an aver‑ age winning percentage of .579, mean‑ ing for U-M to even enter the conver‑ sation it likely has to finish its season with a similar success rate. The Maize and Blue have 17 regu‑ lar-season games remaining and are guaranteed two conference playoff contests. To accomplish the desired .579 metric, Michigan must win 14 of its next 19 games, for a winning clip of .789, to achieve a year-end total of .583. There will be mitigating factors, in‑ cluding how the other teams in con‑ sideration perform, and if U-M ad‑ vances into the CCHA Tournament quarterfinals and semifinals, adding more win/loss opportunities, but the underlying objective is clear — win. "Michigan is never out of it," junior defenseman Mac Bennett said. "We've been able to come back time and time again. "Last year we lost a lot of games in November but were a No. 1 seed by the end of the year. You can dig yourself a pretty big hole and still get out of it." What's Gone Wrong For The Wolverines Michigan's coaches and players, college hockey analysts and inside sources have pointed to four areas where the Maize and Blue tradition‑ ally have been strong but have been vulnerable this season: talent, defen‑ sive play, leadership and goaltending. Talent: On the surface, Michigan has the talent — its 11 current NHL Draft picks comparable to any other given year — however, a pro scout recently shared that U-M doesn't have as many "high-end skaters, scorers and shut‑ down defensemen as they normally do. "Usually when I come to their games, there are seven or eight guys that grab my attention, but this year, it's closer to three or four on a consis‑ tent basis, and all of them have flaws." There are far too many underachiev‑ ing performers up front and on the blue line, players counted on to be key contributors, but who are instead experiencing mediocre campaigns. January 2013    the wolverine  59

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