Mike and Joe Kautz have played plenty of hockey games, but not many together. The brothers were teammates for just one year in high school and have never faced off on opposite sides. So the Lake Superior freshman and the Michigan junior were looking forward to this weekend, when they would get a rare chance to share the ice.

They missed each other by one game.

After sitting out Friday night, Mike, a defenseman who has appeared in half of the Lakers’ contests this year, got in the lineup Saturday – just in time for Joe to be scratched. The elder Kautz skated in Michigan’s 4-1 win on Friday, but watched while sophomore Jason Ryznar returned from a shoulder injury to take his place as the Wolverines blanked the Lakers 3-0 the next night.

“It was tough,” Mike said. “I wanted to play against him, but certain things happen for a reason, so maybe next time.”

The weekend had been marked on the Kautz calendar since Mike committed to Lake Superior, but there wasn’t much trash talking leading up to the potential matchup. Mike said while the two talk every day, hockey is rarely the topic.

Although the No. 11 on both players’ sweaters is more a coincidence than little brother emulating big brother, Mike said he has always looked up to Joe, and instead of being competitive, the Des Plaines, Ill. natives are “pretty much best friends.”

At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, the defenseman stands two inches taller than the winger but gives up six pounds to his older brother. Mike chose Lake Superior partly because he wanted to join a team that was rebuilding, but that process hasn’t been easy. The Lakers have struggled to put the puck in the net and are 0-8 in the CCHA. Mike has relied on Joe’s experience to help him stay positive.

“He’s had tough years, I’ve had tough years,” the younger Kautz said. “But he knows how it is, he knows how it is to be on a winning team. So he talks me through it and knows what it’s about.”

Lake Superior coach Frank Anzalone said Kautz, who wasn’t highly recruited, has handled the difficult season well so far.

“He’s done great,” Anzalone said. “We took him like a lot of other guys – we watch kids that are not the prime guys. I think he’s going to be a really good player some day. He’s a really good team guy, doesn’t play every game, (but) stays upbeat. He’s not a bad player for a nobody.”

He also had quite a contingent in the stands this weekend, for a “nobody.” Kathy and Michael Kautz made the trip from their suburban Chicago home to watch their sons play, and they brought the boys’ grandparents, who had never seen them in a college game before. Mike and Joe’s biggest critic, their 16-year-old sister Katie, also came. Kathy Kautz said she was “disappointed” not to see the brothers on the ice together.

Michigan and Lake Superior face off in another weekend series Jan. 23 and 25, and with a little luck, maybe one of those games will feature two No. 11s, skating against each other for the first time.

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