By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 14, 2010
Through the first 10 games this season, it became apparent that the No. 9 Michigan hockey team's success was based largely on the offensive production of senior captain Carl Hagelin.
Before No. 11 Notre Dame came to Yost Ice Arena for a pair of games this past weekend, Hagelin had tallied at least one point in each of the Wolverines' five wins and three ties. During the three losses, the winger was kept entirely off of the stat sheet.
Despite sharing the team lead for points (10) with senior forward Louie Caporusso, Hagelin was determined to play more consistently against the Fighting Irish to recover from what he called a “pretty slow start.”
That “pretty slow start” equated to three goals and seven assists through 10 games. Impressive for most, but Hagelin expected more.
After Michigan quickly fell behind in Friday's contest, Hagelin took just nine seconds to respond. He broke free from the defense and fired the puck over the left shoulder of Notre Dame goaltender Mike Johnson to knot the game up at one goal apiece.
But Hagelin's score alone wasn't enough, as the Fighting Irish (5-2-1-1 CCHA, 7-3-1 overall) capitalized on two Michigan defensive lapses in the third period to win 3-1.
After the game, Hagelin was visibly agitated with the outcome. He admitted that there was a lot of frustration in the locker room, and said that the team was lacking in “will.”
“We didn’t work as hard (in the third period) as we did in the beginning,” Hagelin said on Friday. “We didn’t win as many battles, which made it easier for them, so that they started making plays in the third.”
When the teams met again on Saturday, Michigan coach Red Berenson shuffled the top two forward lines and, for the first time in a month, separated Caporusso and Hagelin to balance the scoring attack.
Hagelin found himself back on a line with senior center Matt Rust and sophomore winger Kevin Lynch — a duo he had paired with for Michigan’s postseason run last season.
After a dismal one-goal effort from the Wolverines (5-2-1, 6-3-3) on Friday, Berenson counted on his senior captain to be a catalyst for the Michigan offense.
Midway through the second period on Saturday with the Fighting Irish holding a 2-1 lead, Hagelin dug the puck out from behind the net and fed it out front to Rust, who flicked it past Johnson to tie the game.
The goal ended Rust’s 10-game scoring drought and gave Hagelin his team-high eighth assist on the season.
“It’s good to have Carl back on my line,” Rust said on Saturday. “Obviously, he has sparked me before, and he and Lynch sparked me again tonight.”
Added Hagelin: “I played with (Rust and Lynch) all last year, so I know what we do well and what we don’t do well. Today, we worked the puck down low a lot. We were strong on the puck, took shots, and that’s why we were successful.”
Later in the second period, Hagelin redirected a shot from senior defenseman Tristin Llewellyn that found its way past Johnson. That goal proved to be the game-winner in Michigan’s 5-3 victory.
Now leading the Wolverines in assists (8), points (13) and tied for with two others for the lead in goals (5), the speedy Swede is hitting his stride at the perfect time.
“I usually pick up my skating after about eight or nine games, and right now it feels good,” Hagelin said. “I have a lot of confidence in myself and in the team, so I’ll try to do whatever it takes to make this team better.”
Regardless of where Hagelin began this season, Berenson couldn't be more pleased with his winger's performance.
“(Carl) has been terrific,” Berenson said. “He’s got that quickness, speed and that confidence, and now that power to go with it. He’s making plays. He’s a threat to score. He’s having the kind of senior year that you want all your seniors to have.”