- Ariel Bond/Daily
BY MARK BURNS
Daily Sports Editor
Published October 12, 2010
The absence of senior forward Matt Rust after suffering a lower body injury last Saturday at Bowling Green clearly left a wrinkle in the Michigan hockey team’s lineup.
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With the loss of Rust — one of the third-ranked Wolverines’ top three forwards — for Tuesday night’s contest against the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 team, there was certainly the possibility of any number of players filling that void.
Leave it to freshman forward Derek DeBlois to do the trick, as the Narragansett, Rhode Island native tallied assists on the Wolverines' first two goals in the team's 3-0 victory over the USNTDP.
“He was in the right place at the right time, and sometimes, that’s what it takes for a player,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said of DeBlois’s two helpers. “That happens to some players more than other players. There’s more anticipation in their game, they have a better idea of where the puck is going. And sometimes it’s by being lucky and sometimes it’s by being smart.”
Earlier this week in practice, Berenson mentioned how he hoped some of his underclassmen would see some significant playing time in the team’s final tune-up exhibition game before playing its first ranked opponent, No. 9 New Hampshire, this upcoming Saturday.
Prior to last night’s game, DeBlois had only seen game action against Bowling Green. But with the chance to dress before heading into CCHA conference play, DeBlois capitalized on the opportunity.
Just under four minutes into the contest, the Wolverines (2-0-0 CCHA, 2-0-1 overall) drew first blood, when junior defenseman Brandon Burlon saw a seam and jumped into the rush, receiving a cross-ice pass from DeBlois at the bottom of the right circle. Over a sprawled out USNTDP netminder, Burlon fired a wrist shot underneath the bar to give Michigan the early 1-0 advantage.
Berenson said that on a different night, a player in the same position as DeBlois might have been nervous and missed the golden opportunity to set up a fellow teammate. Or he might have just shot the puck instead of picking up his head and looking for an open man. But with some poise and a little on-ice awareness, DeBlois executed in tight quarters around the USNTDP net.
“The more you play, the more comfortable you get," DeBlois said. "It takes the weight off your shoulders, especially when you can get a few points."
Five minutes later, Michigan had an odd-man rush against the USNTDP defense. With senior forward Louie Caporusso streaking down the left side of the ice, he delivered a cross-rink pass to DeBlois.
DeBlois caught the puck with his right skate, kicked the puck up to his stick and feathered a back door pass. Caporusso banged home the Wolverines’ second goal of the game.
With the two assists, DeBlois earned second-star honors behind senior goaltender, Bryan Hogan, who stopped all 33 shots he faced.
In the post-game press conference, Caporusso said that playing against the USNTDP in his freshman season really helped him the rest of the year and a game like this one “could really spring a player” like DeBlois for the rest of season.
“He’s quietly become a real solid freshman, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him,” Berenson said.