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Notebook: Copp, Selman among potential freshmen leaders

Patrick Barron/Daily
Freshman forward Justin Selman has impressed in the early goings. Buy this photo

By Matt Slovin, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 22, 2012

Freshman forward Andrew Copp is on pace to score a goal in every game he plays for the Michigan hockey team.

That’s a loaded statistic that has Copp feeling confident, even if he’s played in just one game for the sixth-ranked Wolverines. His second-period marker during Michigan’s 6-3 win over Bentley at Yost Ice Arena on Friday night came after he was scratched from the first two games of the season.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” said Copp, who had his family in attendance for the milestone. “The atmosphere at Yost is nothing like in junior hockey.”

The Ann Arbor native readily admits that there’s a “learning curve” involved in transitioning from the United States National Team Development Program’s under-18 team to college hockey. He’s already noticed how much stronger the skaters are, for one. And that learning curve is steepened because Copp missed half of last season in the United States Hockey League with a broken collarbone, suffered while playing quarterback for Skyline High School.

But, as Friday’s goal showed, the adjustment is coming, thanks in part to two players not far removed from their freshmen campaigns. Both Copp and freshman linemate Justin Selman acknowledged what a good role model sophomore forward Zach Hyman has been. Copp noted that Hyman took his scratch in the finale against Rochester Institute of Technology in stride and didn’t let it change his work ethic.

The line of Hyman, Copp and Selman has “really given our team a life,” according to Michigan coach Red Berenson.

“He told us what we needed to do to have a good week in practice,” Selman said. “He was making sure every day we were going as hard as we could. We kind of worked off what he was doing and followed in his footsteps.

Copp also pointed out that junior defenseman Jon Merrill has gone out of his way to make the freshmen feel welcome, despite cracking a vertebrae during an exhibition game.

Selman and Copp didn’t always mesh together as well as they have the past two weeks, when they’ve each set the other up for a goal. In fact, in the past, neither enjoyed playing against the other while they were both in the USHL.

“Growing up, I hated playing against (Selman),” Copp said. “We had a little bit of a rivalry but now we play together real well.”

Added Selman: “We complement each other really well. We have a similar game. We work hard in both ends. It’s real fun playing with Copper.”

Last season, then-freshmen forwards Alex Guptill and Phil Di Giuseppe stepped into the stoplight, with the former earning CCHA Rookie of the Year honors and the latter scoring in bunches early.

“Especially in a program like this, guys can have an opportunity right away if you take what they give you and make the most of it,” Selman said.

It’s difficult to count on consistent scoring from freshmen, but the opportunity is there for Copp and Selman to produce this season. Berenson likes them skating together on the youthful line with Hyman.

“I like the way they’re playing,” Berenson said of the two freshmen. “I like their enthusiasm. They got their chance, and I think they played well.”

CLARE CLEARED: Junior defenseman Kevin Clare, who injured his arm during Michigan’s 7-2 victory over Rochester Institute of Technology on Oct. 12, returned to the ice on Monday for practice.

“He’s feeling pretty good,” Berenson said. “So we’ll see how he does this week. But it’s good to see him back on the ice. … We’ll just see how Clare is, and how the week goes.”

Berenson added that sophomore defenseman Mike Szuma did a “pretty good” job in filling in last weekend, though he still “had his moments.”