In his 28 years at the helm, Michigan hockey head coach Red Berenson has seen a lot of talent come through the US National Team Development Program. The group that hung tough with his Wolverines Monday night, however, caught his eye as especially high-caliber. Even a 3-1 victory couldn't stop Berenson from singing the youth's praises.
“That team, they are all 17-year olds,” Berenson said. “But they look like pros. They are all going to be top college players.”
For a pair of USNTDP defensemen, Monday night’s exhibition against the Michigan hockey team was a homecoming of sorts, despite the fact that it was their first time on the Yost Ice Arena rink. Both Jacob Trouba and Connor Carrick have verbally committed to call Yost home next season.
“It was a lot of fun,” Trouba said of the opportunity. “There was a lot of energy.”
For now, though, Michigan was the enemy.
“It was pretty nerve-racking at first,” Carrick said. “You try to settle yourself down and play the game. I’m looking forward to having (the crowd) on my side for the next four years.”
Trouba, in particular, was impressive. About six minutes into the first period, he scanned the ice after receiving a pass from teammate Kyle Osterberg, then he slipped the puck to Nicolas Kerdiles, who put it in the back of the net. His quick find of Kerdiles was more than enough to create the scoring chance for the USNTDP and put the home crowd on edge, with the Wolverines trailing a team of high-schoolers.
For Berenson, the scrimmage presented a chance to see just what he would be getting when the two defenders come under his tutelage. And although the coach was unable to comment on his incoming class due to NCAA regulations, one would assume that the USNTDP standouts' ability to clean up the ice consistently pleased the 28-year veteran, even though his team was facing them.
Junior forward A.J. Treais, tasked Monday with skating past the pair of recruits, seemed anxious to call them teammates, instead of counterparts.
“I was very impressed with them,” Treais said. “I thought they handled themselves very well for their first college game, and especially here at Yost.”
Trouba and Carrick cited their tendencies to play smash-mouth hockey as what attracted them to the program, as the Wolverines are known to feature that brand of hard-hitting defense. Berenson likes his fair share of tough defensemen and fast, offensively-minded versatile ones too.
“They play fast and physical,” Trouba said. “They play on the edge. That’s how I like to play.”
But Carrick noted there was also enough room for a defenseman like himself.
“I like to play that same style — their defensemen are offensemen and I’m very excited to add to a very good hockey team,” Carrick said.
When asked for his take on Trouba and Carrick’s first showings at Yost, sophomore forward Luke Moffatt — a former USNTDP player himself — was nostalgic.
“It’s definitely a little nerve-racking coming in and playing the team you’re going to play for next year,” Moffatt said. “I remember (Treais and I) had the opportunity to play against Michigan. It’s a fun experience for those guys.”