When the Michigan hockey team hits the ice tomorrow night for the annual Blue and White scrimmage, Michigan coach Red Berenson and his staff will have barely seen more of the squad than you have.
College hockey instituted a common start date this year, meaning, up until tomorrow, the coaches have been allowed to spend just two hours a week on the ice with their team.
Michigan skates out 14 freshmen, that’s a lot of teaching to do in just two hours a week. It’s a lot of names to learn, too.
“I’m not sure yet,” senior Chad Kolarik said when asked if Berenson knew all the freshmen’s names.
With or without the names, the coaches and players know it will be important to take the scrimmage, and Sunday’s exhibition against Western Ontario, seriously, especially considering the difficult schedule Michigan will face in the following weeks.
Without the coaches on the ice, it’s been up to senior captain Kevin Porter, Kolarik and junior alternate captain Tim Miller to lead practice. During captain’s practices, the past few weeks, the team has worked on all aspects of the game, but no one will know how this team gels until it hits the ice on Saturday.
“All the little things are hard to duplicate in practice,” Berenson said. “So we need to get into some good game habits.”
A scrimmage against teammates might not be the most exciting way to start a season, but the Wolverines are looking forward to going up against Western Ontario.
Michigan is 9-0-0 all time in exhibitions against Canadian schools, and none of the Wolverines want to have the dubious distinction of breaking that record.
Michigan last brought in a large freshman class two years ago, when 11 first-year players graced the roster. That group included first-round NHL draft picks Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano – both jumped to the NHL after last season. Of the 11-member class, just six remain.
That class had big names, but this year’s freshmen are no slouches either. Six were selected in this year’s NHL draft – including first-round pick Max Pacioretty.
As one would expect, even a scrimmage and an exhibition are exciting to the freshmen.
“I just can’t wait to put on the jersey,” Pacioretty said. “I’ve heard so much about the tradition but I don’t really feel like a part of it yet.”
Notes: The Wolverines will be without one key part of the freshman class. Goalie Bryan Hogan came down with mononucleosis last week. Hogan was expected to compete with junior Billy Sauer for the starting job, but it will take him a few weeks to return to form. In the interim, freshman Shawn Hunwick will backup Sauer.