GRAND RAPIDS In the years following its magical, but improbable, run to the 1998 national championship, the Michigan hockey team”s class of 2001 has been labeled many things.
If you believe everything you hear, you are probably confused. This year”s seniors have been called overachievers and underachievers, grinders and finesse players, leaders and followers call them what you will.
But today, there”s only one moniker that truly sticks Frozen Four-bound.
“Our senior class has had their moments this season, but they stepped forward tonight,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “You look at who scored the goals tonight and the seniors were the key.”
On the ice, the play of Michigan”s senior class was reminiscent of a Supremes” song lyric “Reflections of the way life used to be.”
Here was Mark Kosick, the fab freshman of the “98 team, bobbing and weaving through traffic to net goals on both nights, kick-starting the Wolverines yesterday with the deflection and key first goal of the game.
Kosick”s confidence and game were not always on the same page the last two seasons, but even the forward”s most seasoned bashers must take their hats off to his stirring return after getting benched against Michigan State in the CCHA championship game last week.
There was the much-maligned Josh Langfeld responding to a season full of tumult with a crucial, momentum-building goal at the tail end of the first period yesterday.
Here was Geoff Koch, Captain Koch if you will, playing his usual unselfish hockey throughout the weekend while managing to stuff home the game-winner last night.
If their names sound familiar, it”s not a mistake. All three scored crucial goals during the Wolverines” playoff journey to the top three years ago.
Now, as then, Bill Trainor, Scott Matzka and Dave Huntzicker made sound, subtle contributions. Trainor remained his usual, steady self while helping to silence the potent St. Cloud powerplay, while the speed-demon Matzka sent hearts aflutter by generating odd-man opportunities by way of his jet skates.
Huntzicker, often Jeff Jillson”s stay-at-home buddy, has poked his nose into the powerplay scheme lately, but avoided delusions of grandeur yesterday with punishing checks and well-timed clears.
After a season of getting called out by just about everybody for Michigan”s mediocre showings in the Great Lakes Invitational and CCHA race, the seniors finally understand what is at stake their legacy.
“After freshman year, we didn”t realize how hard it would be to battle back we”ve battled through some tough times,” Matzka said.
Perhaps their toughest critics, Michigan”s coaching staff, took the most pride in the heroics of the team”s elder statesmen.
“It shows character,” associate coach Mel Pearson said. “As a staff, we”ve always appreciated what they can do sometimes we needed to push them in practice and maybe they didn”t understand why at the time.
“But they really came together and we need them.”
And that, more than anything else, is what the class of 2001 will be remembered for.