You don’t even have to finish the questions, he already knows them.

Paul Wong
TONY DING/Daily
The Michigan hockey team will need all the help it can get from defenseman Andy Burnes this weekend when the depleted Wolverines take on CCHA-leading Ferris State in a home-and-home series.

Alternate captain Andy Burnes is well aware that he and his defensemen are going to have to play a near flawless game against the CCHA’s top-ranked offense from Ferris State. The Bulldogs boast the best offense in the league with 4.46 goals per game.

The junior, recovering from a strained groin injury, also knows that his load this weekend will be much heavier, as it will be the first time the defense will be truly tested without academically ineligible Eric Werner.

Heck, he even knows who should be coaching the Lions next season.

“Maybe get Barry Sanders back there to give them a little offensive mindset,” Burnes said.

Nothing against Steve Mariucci, but when he thinks of the Honolulu blue and silver, Burnes remembers a simpler time from Sanders’ era.

“I liked the Silverdome – I have some childhood memories from when I was taken there,” Burnes said. “I’m not really much of a football fan in general, but we used to go to Lions games as kids with my grandpa and my dad … I was just a little guy that was wide-eyed from seeing Barry Sanders. We used to get there early and watch him warmup.”

And for being a hockey player, Burnes could appreciate the way Sanders moved across the field as if gliding on ice.

“He was agile and low to the ground … he was my favorite player – I miss him,” Burnes said, speaking for every Lions’ fan wishing for better times.

Though Burnes’ supporting cast is much more talented than those Lions’ offensive linesmen that Sanders played with, Burnes is one of the few doing all the dirty work to make sure that the Jeff Tambellini’s and Jed Ortmeyer’s of the Wolverines can put tallies on the board.

“The bottom line is that he’ll be on the ice for a lot more goals scored than goals against,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “That’s the kind of kid he is, he takes pride in that … if he scores goals, it’s a bonus.”

Sanders, the former Heisman Trophy winner, was also known for his great sportsmanship, something that is seen with Burnes. He has committed just 21 penalties in his last 60 games, meaning he is on the ice when the Wolverines need him the most.

It’s safe to say that “the most” will be this weekend when Michigan plays Ferris State in a home-and-home in which the Wolverines can claim a share of the conference with a sweep of the Bulldogs.

“We have a kind of playoff hockey mentality right now,” Burnes said. “We know we’ve dug a hole as far as points are concerned, and we need every win.”

Burnes is confident that the Wolverines’ problems in loud road environments – two losses at Northern Michigan and one at Western Michigan – when they travel to Big Rapids Saturday.

“I think it was a good experience for us at Western,” Burnes said. “It was really the first time that we had been in that hostile of an environment, and it was a test for us. Now we know what it’s going to be like. It’s exciting to play in front of a crowd like that in that atmosphere.”

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