It has been 20 days since the Michigan hockey team announced its most recent departure All-American junior forward Andy Hilbert.
Hilbert”s teammates were sorry to see him leave, but they understood the situation and wished him well.
“This is a good opportunity for Andy,” junior forward Jed Ortmeyer said. “We all support him and we are happy for him. But we”re going to miss him. He”s a great hockey player.”
The Wolverines also lost nine seniors to graduation, but the bleeding did not stop there. All-American defenseman Jeff Jillson opted to leave Michigan in early May to pursue a career with the San Jose Sharks. And the Wolverines” top goalie recruit, Jason Bacashihua, will be skating for the Plymouth Whalers because he failed to qualify academically for Michigan.
But Michigan coach Red Berenson remains optimistic about next season thanks in large part to his veteran goaltender Josh Blackburn.
“I think our defense will be every bit as good or better this year,” Berenson said. “And we will have as good a goaltender as anyone in college hockey.”
That defense will be anchored by sophomore Mike Komisarek, the first defenseman and first American selected in this summer”s NHL Entry Draft.
The Wolverines may have a goalie returning with three years of on-ice experience and a solid defense, but someone is going to have to fill up the scoring void left by Hilbert.
“Honestly, I don”t know where the goals are going to come from,” Berenson said. “But (we) have a number of guys that fill those roles.”
Hilbert targeted several players to shoulder the scoring load.
“Jed Ortmeyer is a great hockey player, and I”m sure he”ll be able to pick up the points. John Shouneyia and Mark Mink are going to pick up the slack as well.”
Ortmeyer was a little surprised to hear his name at the top of that list.
“I am glad that people feel that way,” he said. “I had a tough year last season with the injury and all. I just hope that I can step up and help the team next year.”
Ortmeyer tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a 9-0 win over Notre Dame on Jan. 23. But he says that it feels fine now.
But before getting too concerned about next year”s Wolverine offense, it is important to remember that Michigan will be returning its No. 1 goal-scorer, junior center Mike Cammalleri.
He may be easy to over-look, at just 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, but Cammalleri led the Wolverines in goals (29), power play goals (10) and plus-minus (+28) during the 2000-01 campaign.
In addition, Michigan will be welcoming a strong incoming class of 10 recruits. Some, like Brighton native Dwight Helminen, who was recently named to the 2001 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp Roster, have already begun to skate with the team this summer.
“I”ve met most of them already,” Ortmeyer said. “Those guys are all highly touted. They are the best guys in the country. (The departures) will get them some more ice time early on. And that will be good for them.”