- Sam Mousigian/Daily
By Jason Rubinstein, Daily Sports Editor
Published January 7, 2015
The Michigan hockey team surprised almost everyone by capturing its 16th Great Lakes Invitational championship, considering it played without four of its best players.
Now, with sophomore forwards JT Compher and Tyler Motte, freshman forward Dylan Larkin and freshman defenseman Zach Werenksi back in Ann Arbor after representing the United States at the World Junior Championships, the worries have shifted toward how these four dynamic players will fit back into the lineup.
“Obviously they are a big part of our team,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Hopefully they can come in and pick it up where they left off. That’s the one thing you worry about (with) the tournament. Sometimes they come back and they are flying like (former Wolverine Jacob) Trouba was.
“But sometimes they come back with a tail between their legs; losing their confidence because they didn’t play well or they lost.”
Berenson’s worries seem validated considering the heartbreak the participants felt after losing to Russia in the quarterfinals and failing to reach the medal round.
“It didn’t go as planned,” Larkin said. “We wanted to make it to the medal rounds at least. It’s tough to work so hard and come up short.”
Luckily for the Wolverines, junior forward Andrew Copp can empathize with Compher, Larkin, Motte and Werenski. Copp, a participant for Team USA in last year’s WJC, also failed to medal, losing to Russia in the quarterfinals.
Copp said he felt dejected after the loss, and it was on his mind for a few days after. But a year wiser, the captain understands the importance of quickly moving past the heartbreak — especially considering the Wolverines are still looking to bolster their tournament résumé.
“For me, last year, it was pretty tough, and then the next few days you think about it,” Copp said. “But once you’re back here and back with this group of guys, you’re worried about other things and not too worried about Russia.
“I talked to the guys about it and we kind of talked about how much we hate Russia. But it’s over with now.”
FASCHING A FOE?: For Copp and Larkin, this weekend’s two-game series against No. 9 Minnesota will mean bragging rights are up for grabs with a good friend.
Hudson Fasching, a sophomore forward for Minnesota, has been linemates with Copp and Larkin before. At the 2014 WJC, Fasching skated alongside Copp and 2012 first-round NHL draft pick Stefan Matteau. The trio became known as the “grind line” and was perhaps the team’s best line.
Just two weeks ago, Fasching became linemates with Larkin and, once again, helped create the Americans’ best line with a Wolverine. Larkin ended the WJC with five goals and two assists, in large part thanks to Fasching.
“He’s a lot like Zach Hyman,” Larkin said of Fasching. “He works really hard, going after every loose puck in the corner. He’s always going to be in the dirty areas and play a tough game.”
But come Friday night at Yost Ice Arena, Fasching will be a foe, not someone Copp or Larkin can look to for help. Copp loves the challenge of playing his longtime friend, though.
“It’s a little bit of fun out there,” Copp said. “We crack some jokes once in a while during warm-ups, shoot a puck at him or something. But once the game goes and you’re in the other jersey, you’re trying to win, and that is all that matters.”
BERENSON SATISFIED: Michigan’s 16th GLI title wasn’t the only thing Michigan fans celebrated over the holiday break. Wolverine fans across the country were cheering the football program’s recent hire of prolific coach Jim Harbaugh.
“I went to the press conference,” Berenson said. “I thought it was terrific. It was great. It was a media frenzy, but it was positive. It was one of the better news items around Michigan here for a while.”
Despite his presence at Harbaugh’s press conference, he hasn’t spoken with Harbaugh.
“I didn’t want to bother him,” Berenson said. “It was his first day on campus, and it was a madhouse. But I’ll get to meet him plenty.”