Thursday, February 21, 2008
Michigan Hockey - Winged Helmets Make Them Fly
Great suggestion from a reader – a little Michigan Hockey coverage. Wow, what a year. Red and the boys were supposed to be in a down year this year with 10 freshmen on the roster. I believe at the pre-season league meetings, Michigan was picked to finish in the 4th or 5th spot in the CCHA. That just goes to show you how much of a team sport hockey is and how much team chemistry matters. This team seems cohesive and consistent and had that “it” it takes to be successful. All this despite one team member getting tossed off the team for identity theft a couple weeks ago for stealing credit/debit card numbers from his roommate and teammate (pretty low stuff).
Red has the boys firing on all cylinders, and Billy Sauer is proving to be that special goalie that Michigan has long depended on during the Berenson era - to go along with Warren Sharples, Steve Shields, Marty Turco, and Al Montoya in past years.
College hockey is as exciting as it gets, especially in Yost Ice Arena. Great place to watch a game for the atmosphere and the students being into it. Sometimes it is not fit for younger ears, but hockey fans are rabid and nuts, and Michigan fans have made Yost into one of the best college venues in the country. Over the last 20 years, it has turned into one of the hotter tickets in town. When Red arrived in 1984, I believe there was a demand for all of 14 student season tickets. Now, it is tough to find a ducket.
Winning certainly has a lot to do with it. Red Berenson is the Coach K of college hockey taking his teams to 17 straight NCAA tourney’s (longest streak ever in college hockey) and reaching the Frozen Four 9 times in the last 16 years. Maybe a bit disappointing to win only two national titles in that time, but it is one heck of a run that is still in progress. 88 Players have been drafted in the NHL in the Red years as well, many of whom have had stellar NHL careers. Really incredible accomplishments, and the only reason he does not get the national PR is because hockey is not football or basketball. In addition, Red has run a model program instilled with the utmost integrity and respect. One of Red’s biggest hurdles is not losing too many key players to the NHL early. However, as the case this year, he re-loads quite effectively.
The Wolverines are surely on their way back to the NCAA’s this year, as they have been #1 in the country for much of the year. The question is can they peak at the right time to make a run. The loss of our 2nd leading scorer and assistant captain Chad Kolarik (24 goals in 32 games) does not help the cause. Originally reported as a groin injury, it looks as though it is a hamstring, which in hockey is the better of the two. Hopefully he can come back in time for a tourney push, but it is not the same for him or the team as if he had been playing all along. Kevin Porter, Michigan’s senior captain and leading scorer in the nation needs to step it up in his absence and find (or bring along) other players, such as freshman Aaron Palushaj (pictured above), to create offense.
Stay tuned for another exciting finish to Michigan Hockey – hopefully Meeechigan can find itself in Denver in early April for the Frozen Four, and find a way to win it all.