Wright Issues Wake-Up Call to Skidding Wolves

The Michigan Gray Wolves have a very distinct identity: they suffocate opponents with a fierce, trapping defense and elite goaltending from Dirk Lundquist, then they manage just enough offense to win.  It’s a frustrating style for opponents, and not always the most fun to watch, but it’s been extremely effective over the years.

Ron Wright

This season, however, the Wolves face more challenges than ever before.  Not only are their traditional rivals, the Anchorage Igloos, experiencing their usual second-half surge, but the Seattle Sailors and Saskatchewan Shockers are turning in their best-ever seasons.  Michigan is no longer guaranteed a postseason berth, and their old winning formula is showing signs of cracking as their offense has stagnated recently.  All of this led coach Ron Wright to take the rare step of sounding off publicly after yet another low-scoring loss.

Wright’s postgame comments came during a particularly troubling stretch for the Wolves.  They’d lost 8 of their last 11 games, falling out of first place and into third.  Although their defense had its stumbles during this stretch – most notably an 8-2 blowout loss to Hamilton that started the slump – the offense was the primary culprit.  The Wolves have scored more than two goals only once during the skid, and they’ve been shut out twice.

Tuesday’s game in Hershey was emblematic of Michigan’s recent struggles.  The Wolves’ defense was successfully stifling the Bliss attack, but the offense generated little sustained pressure, a problem that was exacerbated by the parade of Wolves going to the penalty box, usually for avoidable minors.  The game remained scoreless until the third, when the teams traded goals within an 11-second span.  Bliss RW Remi Montrechere finally won it for the home team in overtime.

After the game, Wright was blunt in critiquing his team.  “We’re not playing championship-caliber hockey right now,” the Michigan coach told reporters.  “If we don’t rediscover our hunger and intensity over these last couple of weeks, we’re going to be watching the postseason from home.  And we’re going to deserve it.”

Wright centered his heaviest fire on the offense, or lack thereof.  “Our scoring attack isn’t really an attack at all,” Wright said.  “When you’ve got a world-class goalie like the Bear, it’s easy to get complacent and count on him to do the heavy lifting.  But he can’t put up a shutout every night, and we’re asking him to way too much.”

The coach didn’t spare himself from criticism, either.  “I think some of our sets on offense and our approach has gotten stale,” Wright noted.  “That’s on me and the coaching staff.  We’ve got to freshen things up a bit.  But we’ve also got to start playing like the Vandy depends on it.  Because it does.”

The players acknowledged that Wright’s concerns were accurate.  “We’ve been playing tired hockey lately,” said C Hunter Bailes.  “We’ve got to step it up and play the way we know we can, and we’re running out of time to do it.  And the leaders on the team, guys like me, it starts with us.  We’ve got to find that extra push to get us going.”

Wright’s words appeared to fire up the Wolves in their next game against lowly Dakota, as Michigan’s offense came to life and launched 38 shots.  Unfortunately, they ran into an unusually brilliant performance from Jackalopes netminder Christien Adamsson, who made 37 saves, giving his team time to claim another 2-1 overtime victory on a slapshot by Ryan Airston. They snapped their skid in the next game, however, bursting out for six goals against Kansas City.

Wright noted that the team’s current struggles might have a bright side.  “Having to fight and claw our way into the postseason might actually be a good thing,” the coach said.  “Last season, we were so far ahead all that we started cruising after the All-Star break.  Then we got to postseason and we couldn’t flip the switch.  This year, we’ll already be in playoff mode.  So we should be a more dangerous team… as long as we actually get to the playoffs.”

Game 54, Michigan @ Hershey, Chocolate Center

                   1   2   3   OT   F
Michigan           0   0   1    0   1
Hershey            0   0   1    1   2

 
Michigan               G   A PTS PIM +/-   Hershey                G   A PTS PIM +/-

Douglas         LW     0   0   0   0   1   Milton          D      1   0   1   0   1
Kronstein       D      0   0   0   7  -1   Valentine       C      0   0   0   0  -1
Madison         D      0   0   0   5  -1   Baldwin         D      0   0   0   0  -1
Lunsford        RW     0   0   0   0   0   Hart            RW     0   0   0   0  -1
Beruschko       LW     0   0   0   0  -1   Nahorniak       LW     0   1   1   2  -1
Mudrick         D      0   0   0   0   0   Meloche         D      0   0   0   0  -1
Marlow          C      0   0   0   2   0   Kirkpatrick     C      0   0   0   0   0
Zabielski       D      1   0   1   2   1   Montrechere     RW     1   0   1   0   1
Poulin          RW     0   1   1   0   1   Aubin           D      0   1   1   0   1
Davenport       LW     0   0   0   4   0   Kulkarov        D      0   0   0   0   0
Bergdorf        D      0   1   1   2   1   Daniels         RW     0   0   0   0   0
Knight          C      0   0   0   2  -1   Minnik          D      0   0   0   7   0
Denison         RW     0   0   0   2  -1   Lapointe        F      0   0   0   0   1
Bailes          C      0   0   0   0   1   Ketterman       C      0   1   1   0   1
Hexton          D      0   0   0   0   0   Swindonburg     LW     0   0   0   5   0
----------------------------------------   ----------------------------------------
TOTALS                 1   2   3  26   0   TOTALS                 2   3   5  14   0

Scratches:
MIC:  Bullock, Berlinger, Starkey
HSY:  Danielsen, Chappelle, Dowd, Sweet (DL), Cargill (DL)

 
Michigan            SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Lundquist           23    21    2  0.913

Hershey             SH    SV    G    Sv%
----------------------------------------
Colt                22    21    1  0.955

 

First Period
------------

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
02:52  MIC  Bergdorf 2:00 (Clipping)
05:42  HSY  Minnik 5:00 (Fighting)
05:42  MIC  Kronstein 5:00 (Fighting)
11:51  MIC  Knight 2:00 (Interference)

Second Period
-------------

GOALS:
None


PENALTIES:
10:29  MIC  Denison 2:00 (Interference)
13:57  MIC  Davenport 2:00 (Elbowing)
16:38  HSY  Swindonburg 5:00 (Fighting)
16:38  MIC  Madison 5:00 (Fighting)
17:00  HSY  Nahorniak 2:00 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
18:31  MIC  Davenport 2:00 (Slashing)

Third Period
------------

GOALS:
06:08  HSY  Milton PP (Nahorniak, Aubin)
06:19  MIC  Zabielski (Bergdorf, Poulin)

PENALTIES:
04:18  MIC  Marlow 2:00 (Hooking)
13:45  MIC  Kronstein 2:00 (Diving)
15:15  HSY  Minnik 2:00 (Slashing)
18:52  MIC  Zabielski 2:00 (Cross-checking)

Overtime
--------

GOALS:
00:32  HSY  Montrechere (Ketterman)

PENALTIES:
None


 
SHOTS
------
                   1   2   3   OT   F
Michigan           6   5   9    2  22
Hershey            8   6   6    3  23

 
POWER PLAYS
-----------

Michigan         0 for 2
Hershey          1 for 8

 
INJURIES
--------

None
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