The Michigan hockey team welcomed two familiar faces back to practice yesterday. Sophomores Mike Brown and David Rohlfs, who have missed the last two weekend series with mononucleosis, stepped onto the ice for their first workout since being diagnosed following a road trip to Columbus on Jan. 21-22. Aside from the expected fatigue after going weeks without skating, the two felt strong afterward and expected to play this weekend at Nebraska-Omaha.
“It felt really good to get a sweat out there,” Rohlfs said. “It’s good to get back on the ice. I’ve been missing that for a long time. You can’t necessarily go full out the first day you’re back. You’ve gotta sort of ease into things. But (Brown and I) definitely gave 100 percent out there.”
Brown is confident he will be playing come Friday’s game, but he knows he’s not completely up to speed in his conditioning.
“It’s going to take a little while to get to the end of the week where I want to be,” Brown said. “The first day back, it’s a little tiring. But I’ll be back, and I’ll be ready to play both games.”
Brown believes he was sick as far back as the World Junior Championships, where he represented the United States over winter break. After he continued to feel ill a few weeks later, during the series against Ohio State, Brown decided to get a blood test. The results revealed that he had mono. The fact that he didn’t know exactly how long it would take for him to regain his health or return to the team was frustrating for Brown.
“It’s kind of tough when you watch the game (from off the ice),” Brown said. “It’s a physical game, and you want to be out there. You want to be hitting and take part in it. But in another way, it’s pretty good. You get a chance to see what’s going on on the ice, and it opens up your eyes. You see everything.
“It’s never a good thing to be sitting out, but it makes you want it even more.”
Rohlfs was tested for mono around the same time Brown was. After feeling sick for a couple weeks, Rohlfs looked up his symptoms on the Internet. When mono emerged as a possible explanation, Rohlfs consulted with team trainers before deciding to go forward with the blood work.
“I didn’t feel like getting out of bed at all,” Rohlfs said. “I couldn’t eat. I just felt awful all the time. I had headaches, stomachaches, just pretty much felt like crap all the time. Whenever I got back from class, I just slept until I had to come to the rink. As soon as I got home from the rink, I just laid back down.”
Rohlfs was upset that he couldn’t have an impact in the games he sat out, but he had no problem cheering his teammates on from the stands.
Michigan coach Red Berenson, for one, is excited at the possibility of inserting the two sophomores back into the lineup.
“I think they add a lot to our team,” Berenson said. “(They’re) not going to be back to full speed. They’re both big, strong kids, and it’s going to take them a few days. They’re going to fumble the puck and miss their passes and shots a little bit, and they need to get back in shape again, too.”
Berenson mentioned Brown’s speed and power and Rohlfs’s physical strength as skills he will welcome back onto the ice when the two make their return to game action.
“(Brown) has no fear,” Berenson said. “He can create a lot of room for other players. In a physical game, he’s at his best.
“Rohlfs controls his part of the ice. When he’s in a corner, he’s strong on the puck.”
Berenson knows that his team is more complete and competitive when Brown and Rohlfs are healthy.
“(Without them), we’re not as big, we’re not as physical, not as strong,” Berenson said. “Certainly, (they) add a dimension to our team that we need.”