Michigan Hockey Gains New Perspective at World Junior Championships
With five skaters from Michigan’s No.6 hockey team named to rosters at the World Junior Championships, fans bonded for two weeks with Wolverines dominating the national stage.
Instead, they had to settle for three days.
The Junior World Championship was a victim of COVID-19[female[feminine protocols when players from multiple teams tested positive, resulting in the event being canceled. Although the two teams carrying Michigan skaters on their rosters – the United States and Canada – totaled just three games before the cancellation, the Wolverines nonetheless left their mark throughout the brief spectacle.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “I think it’s a great experience… whenever you have the chance to represent your country (and play with) the best players in this age group in the world.”
Michigan’s main delegation to the World Juniors was second defenseman Owen Power, who tied for the third most goals, all scored in a hat trick in Canada’s first victory over the Czech Republic. Second-year forward Kent Johnson scored Canada’s first goal in his final game of the tournament, and second-year forward Matty Beniers assisted first-year forward Mackie Samoskevich on a down bar, radius laser goal for the United States.
These developments matter as Michigan enters the final half of the season. Having only scored once in his last 11 games, Samoskevich will see his confidence boost when he returns to Wolverines squad. While missing those skaters, Michigan won only one of its three contests in December. With all five skaters now back, their experience should help the Wolverines in the long run.
With multiple skaters on the U.S. team, for example, Michigan coaching staff could assess the roster pairs and staff roles used by Americans, which Wolverines typically don’t experience in the heat of competition. . National teams have built rosters with unorthodox groups for Wolverines skaters, such as Beniers and Samoskevich playing on the same row.
These varied responsibilities, however long they last, have yielded promising results.
“It was good to watch that and see the chemistry,” Pearson said. “It gives us ideas. We’ve tried a bit (Beniers and Samoskevich) together, but maybe it’s something we need to try again. So it’s nice to see them in different roles, different positions and what they can do.
Although the World Junior Championships were cut short, Michigan skaters had ample time to practice with their respective national teams before the puck’s first face-off, deploying them to unknown positions. This new environment only increases their versatility and adaptability upon their return to Michigan.
Power – which usually facilitates the power play from the tip – has occasionally found its way onto its casual wing for the male advantages of Canada. His loose offensive reins triggered an aggressive and offensive role. The same goes for first-year defenseman Luke Hughes, who has seen a wide range of assignments leaning on his quick stride and confident stick during his stint with the United States squad. Its use has provided many new experiences that can drive improvement as its promising year one campaign continues.
As Michigan’s season progresses, they will face key conference opponents for the third and fourth meetings. With greater familiarity between teams, establishing new looks will be crucial to dominating the Big Ten rankings. Having skaters who have competed in altered roles on the world stage can prove to be a seismic advantage.
Attending the World Juniors has also provided young developing players the chance to absorb new perspectives from different coaches, a rare mid-season opportunity that can help keep things fresh. Skaters take a break from their usual training habits, participate in new exercises and discover new styles of communication. The techniques they find effective can be imported into Wolverines philosophy.
“Anytime you can learn from someone else maybe different ideas that will help you develop your game and make you a better player,” said Pearson. “I think it’s great.”
As Michigan’s full roster meets for the first time in over a month, it will look to quickly restore the pace and chemistry with a key clash against Massachusetts looming.
And with many of its top skaters developing their skills and knowledge at the World Juniors, the Wolverines should start racing.