It was the type of
play that a very good player makes and elevates him to Hobey Baker
Early in the
second period of last Friday’s game between Western Michigan
and Michigan at Yost Ice Arena, the game is tied and the Wolverines
are on the power play. Despite spending the better part of the
man advantage in the offensive zone, Michigan is struggling to
click – passes aren’t finding the tape, shots are
getting knocked down in traffic. Finally, T.J. Hensick takes matters
into his own hands.
The U-M sophomore
forward gains possession of the puck down low, maneuvers to within
20 feet of the cage and rips a hard shot that leaves a vapor trail
as it screams over the right shoulder of goaltender Daniel Bellissimo
with eight seconds left in the power play. The goal – Hensick’s
second of the game – gives the Wolverines a 2-1 lead en
route to a 6-4 win at home.
I’m a big contributor to this team’s offense and it’s
always nice to start the team off with a good first step,”
Hensick said matter-of-factly following the game.
On a star-studded
Michigan team speeding toward the CCHA regular season championship,
Hensick is not only its best player but he’s poised to emerged
as the conference’s top candidate for the Hobey Baker Award.
Coming into the Wolverines’ weekend series with Alaska-Fairbanks,
the Howell, Mich., native ranks second in the CCHA and tied for
fifth nationally with 28 points, and he’s among the league’s
top 10 in goals, game-winning goals and assists.
Not only is
he consistent, picking up at least one point in 17 of the 20 games
he’s appeared in this season, but he’s dynamic, too,
as evidenced by his current six-game point streak, during which
he’s scored seven goals and added five assists.
into Michigan last year and over the course of the year was probably
their most consistent offensive player,” said a National
Hockey League scout. “This year has probably been the same.
He's a hell of a player – he can skate, he's smart, he can
worked hard to refine the finer points of his game. Prior to joining
the Wolverines, he had been purely an offensive threat, but Red
Berenson has him focused on the little things that separate the
wheat from the chaff.
up, I had always been the kid who was scoring goals and setting
up guys,” Hensick said. “But there’s more to
hockey than scoring goals. You’ve got to do the little things
in order for [the coaches] to have faith in you and confidence
in you out on the ice.”
It’s late in the third period of Friday’s game and
Western Michigan trails the Wolverines by one goal. There’s
a loose puck in the Michigan offensive zone that Bronco Mat Ponto
appears to have a bead on, but Hensick recovers and catches up
to the WMU defenseman. Ponto hauls down Hensick with his stick
and is whistled for hooking, and David Moss scores on the ensuing
power play to give U-M a two-goal edge.
Some of the
tweaks and adjustments Hensick aren’t directives from coaches,
but are better described as self-improvement. While at the World
Junior Championship in Grand Forks, N.D., with the U.S. junior
team, he became intrigued by the Europeans and their emphasis
on puck possession. It’s a style of play that would greatly
benefit Hensick, who likes to come in from behind the play and
watch things unfold in front of him.
some of those games, you notice that they love to hold onto the
puck and they don’t move it until the last second,”
Hensick said. “They have so much confidence in their teammates
getting open. It’s something you try to bring back here
and maybe realize you’ve got another second to make a play.”
Based on recent
performances, Hensick has had plenty of time to make plays. If
he keeps it up, there’s a strong possibility he’ll
hear his name called when the 10 Hobey finalists are announced
to help this team in the offensive zone and help to score goals,”
Hensick said. “If that gets me nominated for the Hobey Baker
Award, then that’d be great. But it’s an individual
award. I’m more focused on winning the national championship.”
AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
Business: Last weekend wasn’t a good one in the
CCHA for the guys wearing stripes.
A: Miami thought it had taken 1-0 lead late in the first
period of its game against Michigan State Friday when Matt Christie
scored on a breakaway with less than one second showing on the
bringing a monumental confidence boost into the locker room, the
RedHawks headed into the first intermission scratching their heads
after the goal was waved off by referee Stephen McInchak because
of a strange series of events that started with an incorrect call
by one of the assistant referees.
was touched off when Miami was mistakenly whistled for icing with
4.7 left in the period even though Spartan goaltender Dominic
Vicari had touched the puck. The officials rectified the situation
by moving the ensuing faceoff to center ice.
explained his actions to MSU coach Rick Comley, an assistant referee
dropped the puck at center ice for the faceoff even though a few
of the Spartan skaters weren’t expecting it. The RedHawks
easily won the draw. The puck ended up in Christie’s possession,
and he put it past Vicari shortly thereafter.
his coaching staff contended the faceoff shouldn’t have
taken place. After a brief discussion, McInchak and the assistant
referees disallowed the goal much to the chagrin of Miami coach
referee was over talking to me and never waved the play live,
and all of a sudden, the guy is going in on the breakaway,'' Comley
told Neil Koepke of the Lansing State Journal after the
game. “It certainly shouldn't have counted.”
B: A source told Inside College Hockey that assistant referee
Tony Molina has been suspended by the league after calling an
unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on an Alaska-Fairbanks assistant
coach in the third period of the team’s loss at Bowling
Green last Friday.
As per the CCHA policy on personnel matters, a league spokesman
Thursday refused to confirm whether Molina had been suspended.
An eyewitness to the incident reported that referee Matt Shegos
was in a discussion with UAF head coach Tavis McMillan when Molina,
standing near the penalty box across the ice from the Nanooks’
bench, whistled Wade Klippenstein for making a hand gesture –
one whose meaning was difficult to decipher. The Falcons did not
score during the ensuing power play.
According to the INCH source, the league had previously issued
a warning to Molina regarding calls he had made. Both CCHA commissioner
Tom Anastos and director of officials Brian Hart were in attendance
at Friday’s game. Molina was replaced by John Laduke for
Saturday’s UAF-BGSU contest.
Ferris State (Fri.-Sat.)
I have to admit, there’s not really any series
that piques my interest this weekend. It’s not a knock
on the league, but that’s just the way the schedule
works out. If pressed, however, the UNO-FSU set seems to
be the best of a mediocre lot. The Mavericks are enjoying
a nice turnaround and, despite last weekend’s split
at Ohio State, the Bulldogs are playing their best hockey
of the season.
you’re there: Don’t feel like sticking around
for Saturday’s series finale? Then make the short
trip from Big Rapids to Grand Rapids that night to catch
the American Hockey League’s Griffins as they host
the defending Calder Cup champion Milwaukee Admirals in
a game that could feature as many as 15 former collegians.
friends at BeerDarts.com
recently unveiled a new playing surface honoring
the greatest sports franchise to never win a world championship,
the Minnesota Vikings. Shortly thereafter, the Purple-Helmeted
Warriors of Valhalla thumped the hated Green Bay Packers
to advance to the second round of the NFC playoffs. Coincidence?
I think not.
to the city of Ann Arbor – would it kill you
to run a plow down your side streets after a snow storm?
A good portion of Michigan got somewhere in the neighborhood
of six inches of snow in the middle of the week, but as
of last Friday the stuff was still prevalent on the city’s
secondary arteries. One shouldn’t need a Sherpa to
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Judging from a couple of recent incidents, the
strange behavior in the CCHA isn’t restricted to officials.
Miami goaltender Brandon Crawford-West was benched for last weekend’s
series vs. Michigan State for violating team rules. Freshman Charlie
Effinger started both games for the RedHawks, and made 34 saves
Saturday en route to his first career victory.
meanwhile, has lost the services of Matt Migliaccio for four-to-six
weeks after the senior goalie broke his hand in what Comley called
an “off-the-ice situation”. Junior Rod Tocco inherits
the backup duties behind starter Dominic Vicari.
week, we reported that Notre Dame forward Matt Williams-Kovacs
made his way back into the Irish lineup after missing 14 games
with a broken ankle. Unfortunately, the sophomore’s return
was short-lived – the Calgary native broke his right wrist
in the Fighting Irish’s 1-1 tie at Lake Superior State last
Friday, and will be sidelined the remainder of the season.
Michigan failed in one attempt at ending a lengthy road losing
streak, but the get chance to bring a halt a similarly
disappointing winless skein in an opponent’s building this
weekend. Michigan’s 6-4 win against the Broncos in Ann Arbor
last Friday extended WMU’s losing streak at Yost Ice Arena
to 14 straight. Western’s last win at Yost was Oct. 20,
make the 90-minute trip to East Lansing Saturday for the finale
of a home-and-home set with Michigan State. The last time WMU
won at Munn Ice Arena was Dec. 12, 1993 – they’re
gave up four goals to Western Michigan Friday, and allowed the
Broncos to score five times Saturday, but U-M junior forward Jeff
Tambellini must be living right. He posted a plus-minus
rating of +5 for the weekend. The Port Moody, B.C., native leads
the CCHA in that category at +18.
it just seems like every hockey coach has ties to Lake
Superior State. The Lakers close out the non-conference
portion of their schedule this weekend when College Hockey America
leader Alabama-Huntsville visits the Soo. The Chargers are coached
by Doug Ross, a member of the 1971-72 LSSU squad that won the
NAIA national championship.
a little less than half the season remaining, Michigan radio analyst
Jim Hunt is the current leader in the unofficial “best
comment by a broadcaster” competition. Early in
last Friday’s broadcast from Ann Arbor, Wolverines play-by-play
announcer Al Randall remarked that Western Michigan’s black
jerseys were a marked improvement from the Broncos’ erstwhile
looked like giant Tootsie Rolls,” deadpanned Hunt, “with
‘My Friend Flicka’ on the front.”
A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this