Michigan junior John Shouneyia woke up at 9 a.m. Monday with a pleasant surprise a phone call from his right-hand man on the powerplay, fellow-junior Mike Cammalleri. But the Wolverines” leading scorer was not calling from his home in Ann Arbor he was with Team Canada at the tryouts for the World Junior Championships, which will keep Cammalleri away from his team for its next five games.
The call came because Shouneyia “had to do something for” Cammalleri.
That”s an understatement.
Shouneyia will be counted upon to fill the shoes of one of the top players in college hockey and to keep the Wolverines” top forward line clicking on all cylinders. Cammalleri combined with freshman Eric Nystrom and junior captain Jed Ortmeyer to score 10 of the 11 Michigan points last Saturday at Miami.
“It”s always different without (Cammalleri) out there,” Nystrom said. “He”s the craftiest player, but Johnny”s a great player, too. He”s a little quicker and good with the puck, so he”ll fill in really well.”
While Cammalleri has been the principal leader of Michigan”s run to second place in the CCHA, Shouneyia has been far from a slouch. The center extended his point-scoring streak to a career-high-tying six games last weekend and will be expected to gel quickly with his new linemates.
“We”ve still got two guys on the line, and they”ve had a lot of success,” Shouneyia said. “Those guys have been going, so hopefully they”ll get me going even more.”
Things will get even more interesting for Michigan during the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 28-29. Not only will Cammalleri be absent, but defenseman Mike Komisarek and third-line center Dwight Helminen will also be representing the United States in the World Junior Championships as well.
With its most clutch scorer, its toughest defenseman and its top penalty-killer out of commission, Michigan will be counting on some new blood to pick up the slack.
“When you get in there you have to prove yourself,” Nystrom said. “A lot of players have to step it up this weekend (against Harvard) and come GLI time.”
In last season”s GLI, the Wolverines were in the same bind with Komisarek, Cammalleri and Andy Hilbert participating in the championships. Michigan was upset in the first round of the invitational by Michigan Tech, 7-3.
The GLI has become a reunion of sorts from last season”s Frozen Four, as the Wolverines will be joined by North Dakota and Michigan State, along with upset-minded Michigan Tech.
No. 4 Michigan State and No. 9 Michigan are both riding 8-1-1 records in their last 10 games, and both will have to contend with young squads from the WCHA, which has shaped up as the toughest conference in the nation.
North Dakota, the Wolverines” first opponent, is not used to struggling like it has this season. The Fighting Sioux are 4-7-1 in the WCHA and were swept last weekend by Wisconsin, whom the Wolverines defeated 5-2 in the College Hockey Showcase. But with six freshman forwards and a freshman goaltender playing significant minutes, coach Dean Blais is not surprised.
“This year we”re not playing for national rankings,” Blais said. “We”re playing for improvement. Everyone understands that. I think people know you can”t be 1-2-3 every year.”
Michigan Tech has also floundered because of the strength of the WCHA, posting a 1-7-2 conference record. The Huskies are also young and inexperienced as 12 freshmen fill their roster. But coach Mike Sertich thinks his team will get a lot out of making the trip to Detroit and playing in Joe Louis Arena.
“We”re from Houghton,” Sertich said. “So we get to go and see big buildings, four-lane traffic and restaurants. They get to go on that subway deal. We”ve got one stoplight in town. You have two stoplights and two blocks. It”s awesome. We”re gonna have a lot of kids with sunburned Adam”s apples looking up at the buildings.”