It’s just a weekend of exhibitions, but don’t tell
that to the Michigan hockey coaches. New NCAA rules have prohibited
the veteran staff from running practices until tomorrow, but once
the puck hits the ice at Yost, the coaches expect to see a Michigan
team that is ready to compete.

Ice Hockey
Because of a rib injury, captain Eric Nystrom must remain on the bench this weekend. (FILE PHOTO)

The Wolverines will host Windsor tomorrow and will play the
Blue/White Intrasquad game on Sunday.

“We’re trying to treat Windsor like a regular
conference game,” associate head coach Mel Pearson said.
“It’s going to be more difficult though, because
we’ve had no real contact with the players.”

Captain’s practice has had to make due in the
coaches’ absence, and the team’s experience should ease
the transition from practice to game situations. The Wolverines
return 10 seniors, while adding just two freshmen, who have yet to
get acclimated to the college game.

“The fact that we have so many returning players makes
things easier,” Pearson said. “We have an idea about
our lines and we’re trying to find spots for our two freshmen
forwards where they can have some success.”

The coaches have high expectations for newcomers Kevin Porter
and Chad Kolarik. Both have skated with the U.S. National Team
Developmental Program since 2002, and both have already been
drafted into the NHL.

“Kevin Porter is more of an all-around player,”
Pearson said. “He plays well defensively without the puck and
offensively he can really shoot it. He’s a hardworking, solid
player.

“Chad Kolarik is a flashy player, who might be a little
more exciting to watch. He’s a very good skater with a lot of
speed and creativity.”

Tomorrow, the freshmen will be introduced to Yost, but Michigan
captain Eric Nystrom will sit the weekend out with a rib injury.
Despite participating in practice, Jason Ryznar will also be
unavailable while he continues to recover from off-season surgery
stemming from when his head got cut by a skate last season.
Fortunately for the Wolverines — T.J. Hensick, last
year’s CCHA rookie of the year and lead Wolverine scorer
— will probably play in spite of a groin injury.

One of the reasons that the coaches are so serious about these
games is that the real season opener is just a week away. The
Wolverines will travel to Dayton on Oct. 8 to participate in the
third annual Lefty McFadden Tournament, where they will take on
Northeastern and Boston University.

“We need to get in a game — we need to play against
an opponent,” head coach Red Berenson said. “I want to
see a sense of urgency from our guys. And I want to see the young
players. It’s always exciting to get a look at the incoming
freshmen. I think both these players are going to be real good
players for us this year.”

On Sunday, after the Blue/White Intrasquad game, the Dekers Blue
Line Club will host the annual Skate with the Wolverines. Fans who
are on hand can skate with the players and get autographs.

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