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Chiasson proves level-headed leader of Michigan hockey freshmen

Chris Dzombak/Daily
Michigan freshman defenseman Mike Chiasson has tallied a plus-14 plus/minus this season. Buy this photo

By Matt Slovin, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 14, 2011

One of the Michigan hockey team's defensive anchors is a patient man.

Freshman Mike Chiasson stayed patient in Omaha, Neb., where he played three seasons for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL before beginning his college career.

“It was a great developmental league,” Chiasson said. “It really helped to advance my game to where it is today. Not only did they teach me to be a good hockey player, but just being a good human being off the ice.”

He’s patient on the bench because he knows his shifts will come. In fact, he’s become something of a staple on the blue line for the seventh-ranked Wolverines.

He’s patient on the penalty kill, stabilizing the unit by delivering a timely clearing of the puck or forcing a streaking forward to the outside.

The 20-year-old Chiasson simply knows that when you wait, good things happen — like offers from Michigan and early playing time.

“I stayed really patient and was looking for the right fit,” Chiasson said of his recruiting process. “I don’t regret it.”

Michigan coach Red Berenson, too, is happy his defenseman waited before jumping into college hockey.

“Chiasson’s a little older … and that has shown a little bit,” Berenson said. “(He’s) playing every night.”

When the Wolverines score a goal, look near that blue line. Chances are Chiasson will be there. Perhaps he started the attack with a slapshot from the point. Perhaps he brought the puck up the ice.

Even if he wasn’t instrumental in a Michigan goal, Chiasson has an uncanny knack for being on the ice at opportune moments for Michigan. He leads the team in plus/minus at plus-14.

Chiasson gained most of the experience that makes him such a valuable member of the defense from his USHL time.

“I think it’s helped him a lot,” Berenson said of Chiasson’s junior hockey experience. “He’s used to being a key player on a defense that’s had some success.”

Delaying his college hockey start has been a blessing for Chiasson because Berenson expects a lot of his defensemen. And while they learn to be the type of “honest” players Berenson wants them to be each week in practice, the more advanced skater they come in, the better.

“(Defensemen) need to be able to offset the other team’s best players,” Berenson said. “They need to outmuscle, outhustle and outsmart the other team’s forwards.”

Chiasson is also one of the main freshmen that Berenson consistently trusts on the penalty kill. And while his coach readily admits it’s a “challenge,” it’s one that Chiasson has been happy to take on.

He’s been around the sport for his entire life. His pedigree is impeccable — his father is the late Steve Chiasson, who was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1985. Chiasson will stop at nothing after working his whole life to get here. And if Berenson finds something he can do better, Chiasson’s all ears.

“I’ve always been just one of these guys who’s trying to get better everyday,” Chiasson said.

As for his future, Chiasson can’t wait to see where the sport takes him. In the meantime, he’ll be patient — killing those penalties and setting up tallies.

“(It’s) a great journey and I wouldn’t change it,” he said.