Goals, youth, and the challenge of keeping a lead

What a telling weekend of nonconference play. Three things:

1. The Badgers and Buckeyes can’t buy a goal. Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. Wisconsin did score once in two games in Green Bay against Northern Michigan, losing 2-0 and 4-1, and Ohio State scored once in each loss against Miami, but it’s clear that these are two teams that are looking for some offensive spark after solid scoring seasons in 2013-2014. The Badgers have been shut out twice in three games and have netted three goals in four games to start the season with the nation’s second-worst showing in offense. And after beginning the season with a 5-4 win over Providence, Ohio State has three goals in three games. Each of these teams lost lots of goal scoring from last season. Now each team’s offense is a work in progress.

2. “They’re kids. Scare ’em.” That’s the advice that Crash Davis gives to team manager Skip Riggins in the 1988 movie Bull Durham. I’m not sure that frightening his young team was Red Berenson’s intent after the Wolverines lost 5-1 to New Hampshire Friday night, but I can see how a talking-to led by Berenson on the morning following that loss would be at least a little scary. After beating the Wildcats 2-1 Saturday, Berenson said that the turnaround came from preparation Saturday morning that included much discussion accompanying video. “You talk about the mental part of the game, and after being embarrassed last night,” said Berenson, “I think everybody in that locker room knew that they had to play better, they had to prepare better, they had to contribute in a team way rather than just in an individual way.” Berenson said that the coaching staff was “embarrassed for” the team and that the team’s terrible Friday night performance became evident as Saturday morning progressed. It worked. The Wolverines dominated the first 30 minutes of that game and held on for the win. Keep an eye on junior goaltender Steve Racine, by the way.

3. The Spartans and Nittany Lions are still learning how to play with a lead. After a season when goal-scoring was a challenge, Michigan State is enjoying some balanced offense in the early going, averaging four goals a game. The Spartans scored eight goals against visiting Massachusetts, winning 5-4 and losing 4-3, giving up two late third-period goals against the Minutemen in the Saturday loss, one with 10 seconds left in regulation. The Nittany Lions are also balanced offensively so far and they’re scoring, averaging 3.75 goals per game. Six goals in Alaska, however, were enough to guarantee one tie; Penn State led Alaska-Anchorage 3-1 going into the third period of Friday’s game and gave up goals 14:19 and 18:51 in the third to ensure the 3-3 tie, and after taking a 3-2 lead over Alaska into the third period Saturday, the Nittany Lions surrendered goals to the Nanooks at 14:03 and 14:30 — both by Austin Vieth, by the way — to lose the lead and lose the game.