As the Michigan hockey team left Ann Arbor for its 12-hour flight to Alaska-Fairbanks yesterday, it was clear that the Wolverines had seen better days. After looking so strong in its season-opening tie against Michigan State, the team faltered, splitting its next four games and then getting swept at home by Northern Michigan. The last thing the team needed was a weekend series in Alaska, against a team that, at 6-2, is off to its best start since 1992-93.

Paul Wong
Michigan”s Jason Ryzner will return to his home state of Alaska this weekend. But the freshman will be nowhere near his home town of Anchorage, a six hour drive from Fairbanks.<br><br>DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily

Although Michigan holds a 20-2 all time record against Alaska-Fairbanks, this seems to be the season when past records can be thrown out the window.

It is certain that winning both games will be difficult for the Wolverines, but Michigan coach Red Berenson feels that the trip to Alaska could help the team in many ways.

“I think the trip does a lot for team camaraderie and chemistry,” Berenson said. “The players can really get to know each other better because they have the opportunity to spend more time together.

“When we”re home, they have their hours together at practice every day, but then they go home and they have busy schedules. But in Alaska, we”ll be together literally 24 hours a day.”

“I think that the trip will be a good way for us to regroup and start over as a team,” Michigan freshman Michael Woodford said. “If you”re not too close with a guy, then this is your chance to get closer. It is time to start putting it together.

“We kind of dug ourselves a hole so far, and every game is much more important. This is a huge weekend for us to go up there and prove that we can play well on the road, and hopefully we will be able to come through.”

Once its flight landed in Alaska yesterday, the players hit the ice for a short practice session before they went to sleep. After its weekend series, the team will depart Sunday morning and arrive in Ann Arbor at about 10 p.m.

Coming out of this weekend with at least one win is crucial, if not necessary, for the Wolverines if they want to get back on track. But Berenson wants to make sure his team has the right mindset as it prepares for this weekend.

“We”re going up there with the idea of having to win,” Berenson said. “But we can”t put the weight of the world on our shoulders. We have to take it one game at a time.

“I wouldn”t be surprised if we came back with two wins, but on the other hand, I think we could come back with two losses.”

Coming back with two losses would not be the best thing for Michigan (1-3-1 CCHA, 2-4-1 overall) considering that the team is currently tied for eighth in the CCHA and has gotten off to its worst start in 15 years.

Plus, the schedule is not going to get any easier for the Wolverines.

Two weeks after the Alaska trip, the Wolverines will travel to Nebraska-Omaha for two games against a Mavericks team that is coming off a sweep over No. 1 Michigan State.

Still, Berenson said that he”s been pleased with what the Alaska trip has done for his team in the past, and hopes that this year will be no different.

“I usually feel pretty good about the team after the Alaska trip,” Berenson said. “But every year we have a different team. This year we have a young team, and we have a tough schedule after the trip, but hopefully we”ll start doing better.

“I think last weekend was a huge wake-up call for us, not because we played terrible, but because it showed us how important all the little things are in winning games. It”s not the skill or the talent with us, it”s just awareness.”

Icers ink two early recruits:The Michigan hockey team recently received commitments from two recruits: Jeff Tambellini, a 5-foot-11, 183-pound forward from Moody Port, British Columbia, and Danny Richmond, a 6-foot-1 175-pound defenseman from Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Tambellini is currently in his second season with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League. He has tallied 29 points on 10 goals and 19 assists through 15 games.

His father, Steve, is Vice President of Player Personnel for the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL.

Richmond is currently competing with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League. He leads his team in scoring with 9 points after 10 games. He has also posted a team-high 26 penalty minutes.

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