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2011-01-13

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Caporusso, Wolverines feeding off Hagelin's scorching senior season

Jake Fromm/Daily
Forward Carl Hagelin (12) plays against Michigan State in Yost Ice Arena on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. Michigan won the game 4-0. Buy this photo

By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published January 12, 2011

It’s a good time to be Carl Hagelin.

After the No. 7 Michigan hockey team’s 4-0 shutout of Michigan State on Saturday, senior alternate captain Louie Caporusso gestured toward the gray winter hat hanging off the back of his head.

“How does this hat look on me?” Caporusso asked, laughing. “I think it’s Carl’s. Not bad, right?”

With Hagelin riding a five-game streak dating back to The Big Chill at the Big House during which he has tallied five goals and six assists, the Wolverines (10-4-1-0 CCHA, 13-6-4 overall) haven't lost in regulation since Nov. 28.

Midway through his senior season, the co-captain leads Michigan in goals (12), assists (15) and points (27).

But the winger hasn’t always been such a force on the front lines of Michigan coach Red Berenson’s offense. After finishing in the middle of the scoring pack as a freshman and sophomore, there were legitimate concerns about Hagelin's offensive abilities when he returned to Ann Arbor as a junior.

“The question we would have asked ourselves (was), ‘Is Carl a scorer? Can he score?’ ” Berenson said. “He’s going to get chances — he skates so hard, he plays so well, he’s playing in a great role on a good line. But could he score?' And I think he’s answering that.”

Hagelin hasn't been merely a scorer, he's been the scorer.

Using his top-level speed on Michigan's top line, Hagelin has been a one-man blitzkrieg on ice. He has held two separate five-game point streaks this season. But more impressively, Hagelin has consistently put together multiple point games.

Hagelin leads the CCHA with four game-winning goals and currently sits fourth in total scoring. But the Sodertalje, Sweden native will admit he’s gotten his fair share of luck around the net.

“It hasn’t been a lot of good-looking goals that I’ve scored,” Hagelin said. “A lot of lucky goals bouncing in, but I try to make sure that I’m in the right spot at the right time.

“Obviously, it boosts your confidence when you’re on a roll and you score lucky goals — it’s like there’s something up there that wants you to score.”

All season, Berenson has preached “getting pucks to the net,” and Hagelin has been his prime disciple, throwing 93 shots on goal — almost 20 more than any other skater.

“Some of his assists are really good plays, and some are rebounds off shots he took,” Berenson said. “Carl is making things happen, and when things happen, everybody benefits.”

The speedy Swede has carried the offense of late, and the Wolverines depend heavily on him. Caporusso and senior forward Matt Rust, who placed second and third respectively in scoring behind Hagelin last season, have hit the skids, scoring just 10 goals combined.

Caporusso still sits second in points, but he isn’t on pace to come near his 21-goal finish from last year. Berenson has flip-flopped line combinations to try kick-starting both Rust and Caporusso, and he even moved Caporusso over to left wing for last weekend’s series against the Spartans. He hasn't found the remedy yet.

But Caporusso’s best aid might just be his pal Carl. He stole Hagelin’s hat, and now he wants to steal a little of Hagelin's magic touch with the puck.

“I can count five of Carl’s goals that normally wouldn’t go in, but this year they’ve gone in,” Berenson said. “So you take five goals away from Carl and give them to Louie — he gets a few breaks — we could have a different conversation here.”

After practice on Wednesday, Hagelin and Caporusso stayed on the ice an extra 15 minutes longer than any of their teammates to exchange advice and feed each other one-timed passes to shoot into the empty net.

When the two finally trudged slowly toward the locker room, Caporusso took a moment to explain their relationship.

“We were just in the corner there talking about how to come out of the corner, what he’s doing on the walls that I can do better and what I’m doing that he can do better,” Caporusso said. “I probably help him with his shot and he’ll help me with my turns and escaping opponents.

“It’s great when you’ve got a best friend who’s a great player like Carl, because you can feed off that and become a better player as well.”