During the Michigan hockey team’s warm-up skate at practice, Wolverine associate head coach Mel Pearson scans the ice for Chad Kolarik’s light blue jersey. He feeds the alternate captain passes to shoot as the team circles the ice to loosen up.
But against Lake Superior State Saturday, Kolarik fell to the ice in the third period and sustained a hamstring injury that could bench the senior for four to five weeks, Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
The injury means Kolarik – who has played in 156 consecutive games – will miss the first contest of his Michigan career.
So for Pearson, it was strange not to see him on the ice yesterday, during the team’s first full practice since the injury.
“I was looking around today to see who I was going to fool around a little bit with and he wasn’t there,” Pearson said. “It was a little different.”
For senior captain Kevin Porter, Kolarik’s roommate, it will be the first time all year the senior duo won’t play on the same line. When asked if it would be strange playing without him this weekend, the reserved Porter paused before switching to another topic.
For junior Travis Turnbull, Kolarik’s likely replacement, the injury will be an opportunity to step up and improve his already career-best year. Though many thought freshman Aaron Palushaj, the team’s assist leader and second-line right wing, would take Kolarik’s spot, Turnbull skated with the first line in practice yesterday.
Turnbull’s experience is one of the many reasons Berenson would give him the edge over the freshman. Berenson said he expects Turnbull will step up his game playing alongside Porter the same way he did with last year’s leading scorer.
“He’s played with good players before at times and done well,” Berenson said. “Any time we put him with (former Wolverine) T.J. (Hensick) he seemed to play well. So I think Turnbull has a good chance at fitting in pretty easy.”
But no matter how well Turnbull fills the role, Kolarik is struggling being out of the action.
“It’s a little tough,” Kolarik said. “You’re playing Michigan State, you’re playing for a regular season title and you can’t be apart of it. (It’s) definitely frustrating, but you just got to be a cheerleader.”
The Abington, Pa., native is a vocal leader and is often credited for raising the team’s intensity with his energetic approach. His passion to help the team makes it even tougher for Kolarik to watch a Michigan hockey game from the other side of the glass for the first time since he arrived on campus in 2004.
Rather than skating to the blue line as the starting lineups are announced, Kolarik is struggling to touch his toes and can barely put on his socks because of the injury. Yet he still remains confident his twice daily treatments will help him return sooner than expected.
“If I heal quick, you never know, by Senior Night [in two weeks] hopefully,” Kolarik said about when he would return. “Who knows, right?”
Former Wolverine charged: Defenseman Kevin Quick, who was dismissed from the team Feb. 1, was charged with identity theft, fraud under false pretenses and using a computer to commit a crime, The Ann Arbor News reported.
Investigators said Quick allegedly paid off credit-card debt, a traffic-violation fine and other expenses with his roommate freshman Carl Hagelin’s credit card. A hearing has been scheduled for March 12.
After being removed from the program, Quick has since signed a tryout contract with the Norfolk Admirals, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate.