Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson said he is proud of the two Wolverines – sophomores Dwight Helminen and Eric Nystrom – who made the 2003 United States National Junior Team roster that was announced yesterday. The team will compete in the World Junior Championships in Nova Scotia, Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. But Berenson is a little concerned that the commitment to the national team might wear down two of his best players.

“We’ve had a lot of games and situations (in the past) where these (World Junior) players get back and we’re excited about having them back, and they might play a game or two and then they go in the tank,” Berenson said. “It’s rare that the player has come back and not missed a beat.”

Not to say the players become worse, but fatigue does set in for these players who do not get the same winter break as their teammates.

Both Helminen and Nystrom played all seven of the United States’ games in the Championships last year, and each experienced pains coming back. Nystrom had his longest scoring drought of the season – four games – right after last year’s event in the Czech Republic. Helminen didn’t score a goal his final 14 games last year. Former Michigan player Mike Cammalleri, who played for Canada last year, had the worst post-Juniors experience when he felt the wear and tear of the tournament by falling sick with mononucleosis, which sidelined him for 10 games.

“This tournament can be a great thing for some players, but it also can be a nightmare if it’s not well-organized or the players don’t find a good role on the team,” Berenson said. “But I’ve never discouraged a kid from going, but I’ve had the odd kid who wouldn’t go back. (Most of) these kids think it’s a good thing, so I give them the opportunity to go.”

Their departure leaves holes in Michigan’s lineup for the Great Lakes Invitational, Dec. 28-29, and also against Miami, Jan. 4-5, if the two are playing in the medal games.

For Helminen and Nystrom, this year’s tournament will be a chance for a little redemption. With a 6-1 loss to Russia in the first game of the playoff round last year, the United States took itself out of medal contention. It did win its final two games against the Czech Republic and Sweden to finish in fifth place out of the 10 teams at the tournament. Canada had just one more win than the United States overall, but was still able to finish second.

“With the players that are on the team, it’s going to be a great squad,” Nystrom said.

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