- Jake Fromm/Daily
BY MARK BURNS
Daily Sports Editor
Published April 8, 2011
ST. PAUL, Minn.— If you’re not 100 percent with the Michigan hockey team gameplan, get off the bus.
That’s been coach Red Berenson’s mantra throughout the current season, as he said earlier Friday that his current group of Wolverines have come together and exhibited some of the best team play in recent memory.
It’ll be the guiding focus Saturday as Michigan heads into the National Championship game against Minnesota-Duluth at the Xcel Energy Center.
“It seems like a lot of the younger generation, they feel entitled, and not as willing to work,” Berenson said. “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. It is because of the team, not because of the fire power.”
As the old cliché goes, ‘it’s the name on the front of the jersey that matters, not the one on the back’ — no one has displayed that mentality more than the Michigan's seven seniors.
But it hasn't always been just seven.
The class contained 12 members back in Sept. of 2007, but after some early departures and a few players being kicked off the team for violating team expectations, the class has slowly dwindled.
Even with the class size shrinking, Berenson said he’s got everybody on the same page heading into the showdown with the Bulldogs tomorrow night.
“If you don’t get your best players on board — if you don’t get your leadership on board with what is best for the team — you won’t be a successful team,” Berenson said.
A prime example is senior Louie Caporusso, who hasn’t had the offensive season he would have hoped for during his final year at Michigan. He’s tallied just 11 goals and 20 assists so far, but it’s been his defensive play that has really stuck out in the mind of Berenson.
A recruit that came in with a lot of offensive potential, Caporusso has placed more emphasis on the defensive side of the red line this season.
It’s a role-reversal that other Wolverines have made as well, including senior Matt Rust.
In today’s press conference, Berenson called Rust a true “two-way player,” as he’s had the responsibility of shutting down some of the nation's best forwards, including Hobey Baker Award ‘hat track finalist’ and North Dakota senior, Matt Frattin.
It’s these seniors that have led the Wolverines through the first 43 games this year and they’ll need to lead Michigan for one more game to win the program’s 10th national title.
“Tomorrow night we have the biggest game of all of our lives, so we have to keep our focus,” senior forward Scooter Vaughan said. “We all have our roles, we all know what we need to do – blocking shots, beating our guys back to the front of the net, so as long as we do that and stick to the game plan, we’ll be okay.”
During this past summer, there was the potential of Rust, Caporusso and Carl Hagelin potentially foregoing their senior season and signing a professional contract.
But they didn’t. They stuck around to have one more shot at the national title and play for the block ‘M.’
“I think the biggest thing me and Carl can do, and Rust, is bring a national championship here to the University of Michigan again and win one for coach Berenson and the coaching staff,” Caporusso said back in October.
They'll have their chance in less than two hours.