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2011-04-11

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Berenson counting on character players to finish championship campaign

Jake Fromm/Daily
Forward Luke Glendening (23) plays against North Dakota in the Frozen Four semifinal game at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN on Thursday, April 7. Michigan won the game 2-0. Buy this photo

By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published April 9, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Michigan coach Red Berenson glanced down the row of chairs where three of his players were just moments earlier. His eyes locked on the final seat. The placard in front of the empty seat read, ‘Luke Glendening.’

The veteran coach gave a small smile and turned back. If he were to pick any single player to represent the Michigan program, it would be his junior captain — Glendening has never stopped fighting.

“It seems like a lot of the younger generation, they feel entitled, and not as willing to work,” Berenson said to media before practice Friday. “But I tell you what, the kid sitting at the end of the table here, Luke Glendening, he came to Michigan like (senior goaltender) Shawn Hunwick — with no expectations. I didn’t know if he would ever play a game, and when I saw him on the ice, I realized that this kid has something special.“

Glendening, a Grand Rapids, Mich. native, arrived in Ann Arbor as a walk-on, and finished the season with the Red Berenson Scholarship.

“He goes through the wall,” Berenson continued. “Off the ice he is like a machine, and he is just a great kid. Those are the kind of kids that set an example for those entitled kids.”

Berenson said grooming team-oriented players “is the biggest challenge for any coach” in this this era of college hockey, but the Wolverines have proven themselves time and again this season en route to their national title run.

And no one, it’s safe to say, has exemplified the versatility and sacrifice Berenson values better than senior forward Scooter Vaughan.

Before his junior season, Vaughan was bumped from the blue line up to a role on Michigan’s third or fourth forward line. As a senior, he is now the team’s second-leading scorer and arguably the best two-way forward.

Still, Vaughan rarely finds himself playing above the third line; two weeks ago, with two defensemen missing due to injury, Vaughan spent a portion of a week’s practice back on defense, willing to return to his former position if Michigan needed him back on the blue line.

“I think the leadership of our team is not just the talk, it's walking the talk and how you play,” Berenson said. “Scooter has done it all year. He accepted a role on our fourth line at the start of the year; he scored goals for them and led that line.”

In a season headlined by Michigan’s stalwart defense and not for being the offensive powerhouse of years past, team-oriented players like Vaughan and Glendening have made a crucial difference.

“I think these kids are bringing the most out of each other, and that’s why they are still playing at this point in the year,” Berenson said. “It’s because of the team, not because of the fire power.

“A lot of these guys never blocked a shot before they got to Michigan. Every team that has got this far is blocking shots … Our team has bought into playing better team defense. We realized halfway through the season we weren’t going to win on offense; we had to play better without the puck, and give our goalies a chance.”

And how about the biggest (and smallest) reason Michigan has found itself in the Frozen Four finale? Yes, Berenson has a soft spot for Hunwick as well.

Every summer since 1984, Berenson has run the Red Berenson Hockey Camp in Ann Arbor. For the past few years, Hunwick has been a fan-favorite volunteer. At 5-foot-7, Hunwick has left a lot of kids feeling good about their game, but he has struck up a special connection with one camper in particular — Berenson’s grandson, Blake.

After Michigan’s semifinal victory against heavily favored North Dakota, Blake made a visit to Michigan’s postgame meal.

“(During) our team meal after the game when all the smoke settled, Blake came in to see me,” Berenson said. “When Hunwick saw him he jumped up to go see him, because that’s the type of kid he is. He’s not just full of himself, he spreads himself out and reaches out to other people, and I think that’s why the team has really rallied around him.”

Hunwick came to Michigan hoping to be the backup goaltender. Nothing more. But his journey has set him in college hockey's brightest spotlight. He was never entitled, and he knows that.

After Saturday's finale, Berenson would rather look down the aisle of chairs and see the likes of Hunwick, Vaughan and Glendening seated next to him in the post-game press conference. That usually means the team played solid Michigan hockey. And that usually spells a victory for the Wolverines.


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