Rinkside: Power Play Trending Up
Nov. 9, 2017

By Jackson Riebel 

MINNEAPOLIS -- The No. 4/2 Gopher Hockey program will ride a four-game winning streak into Ann Arbor this weekend to take on Big Ten foe Michigan. The Gophers will look to earn their first series sweep at storied Yost Arena since joining the Big Ten Conference in 2013.

Power Play Trending Up
The Gopher power play has been much improved over the course of its current win streak after converting a mere 9.7 percent (3-for-31) of its opportunities in the first six games of the season. In back-to-back sweeps over Clarkson and Michigan State,  the team produced four goals with the man advantage, posting a much improved 28.6 percent conversion rate (4-14). Junior captain Tyler Sheehy spoke on what was done to spark the change.

“There’s been a few personnel adjustments, and we’ve just been working on it quite a bit in practice,” the junior forward said on Wednesday. “We’ve been trying to incorporate it in throughout practice, just moving the puck and getting shots on net. We’ve talked about how the teams in the NHL who have the best power plays are the ones who shoot the most, so we’ve tried to incorporate that into our own power play. These past couple weekends it’s been good, not only scoring a couple of goals but getting momentum as well.”

Passing of the Torch
A familiar face is back behind the Michigan bench this season to replace newly retired Red Berenson, who stepped away after 33 years at the helm of the Wolverine’s hockey program. Longtime assistant Mel Pearson has rejoined as the program as head coach after a six-year stint at Michigan Tech that saw him lead the Huskies to multiple NCAA tournament berths.

Over the course of the 23 years Pearson spent as an assistant to Berenson, the Wolverines made 11 NCAA Frozen Four appearances and won two NCAA titles. Following the 1999-2000 season Pearson was awarded the Terry Flanagan Award, given by the American Hockey Coach’s Association to honor an assistant’s career body of work. Minnesota Head Coach Don Lucia believes Pearson’s hiring was the right move for both coach and team.


 

 

“For Mel, it was such an easy transition for him to go back. We’ve remained pretty close over the years, and I’ve always had great respect for Mel. We go back to playing against each other in high school when he was at Edina. He made the right move going to Michigan Tech to become head coach, and he did a really good job there, rebuilt their program. He was the rightful hire for Michigan. He’ll do a good job, and he’s done a great [in the past].”

Schierhorn’s Awards Piling Up
Junior netminder Eric Schierhorn posted another strong weekend of play against Michigan State, earning his 50th career win and 10th career shutout in Saturday’s 4-0 victory over the Spartans. His efforts in the series earned him his second-straight Big Ten First Star of the Week, as well as the NCAA Third Star of the Week. Schierhorn is currently leading the Big Ten and sits at ninth nationally in both save percentage (.933) and goals against average (1.80). Lucia has taken notice of the goalie’s improved play so far this season.

“This year he’s playing well. We’re 10 games in, and I think it’s safe to say that he’s played his best hockey as a Gopher. We’re 7-3, and I think there’s obviously areas of our game that we still have to improve upon, but Eric’s been there to bail us out so far. You look back to a year ago, where in the first half of the year he was hot and cold, and then in the second half he evened out his play and our team made a step. This year, he’s pretty much yet to have a bad game. I think that’s the big reason why we’re 7-3 so far.”

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