Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson is generally forthright when he speaks to the media. But at his press conference after Saturday’s 1-0 win over Notre Dame, Berenson couldn’t stop himself from making a sarcastic remark to support one of his seniors.
That senior was Eric Werner. The defenseman had just scored the only goal of the game two minutes into overtime to clinch Michigan’s series sweep of the Fighting Irish in the first round of the CCHA tournament. The goal was more proof to Berenson that Werner should have been honored with the title of the CCHA’s Best Offensive Defenseman.
“It was nice to see Werner score a goal,” Berenson said with a smirk. “(He’s a player) who was not the league’s best offensive defenseman, (even though) he led the league in points (for a defenseman).”
“Everyone has players on their team that they think might have been overlooked,” Berenson said a few days later. “Werner has been one of the best offensive defensemen, and, if you measure it on points, he has the most.”
Berenson got the hint that Werner had been snubbed by the coaches because players who would be receiving awards or are on the All-CCHA teams are asked to order tuxedos for the ceremony. Werner was not asked to “dress up” for yesterday’s award ceremony, and, sure enough, Miami defenseman Andy Greene won the award.
Berenson cited problems with the voting practices as one of the reasons why he thought that Werner got slighted. In Michigan’s last two games — a home-and-home series against Bowling Green — Werner had his best weekend of the year. The senior registered five assists and won CCHA Defenseman of the Week. But coaches all around the league had already submitted their votes.
“The way the voting works, a lot of the coaches, us included, are asked to vote before the final weekend,” Berenson said. “So if you vote and then somebody gets five points — like Werner did last weekend — and jumps up (to the league lead), somebody else gets the award.”
Similarly, freshman Chad Kolarik was left off the CCHA All-Rookie team. Kolarik scored two goals in Michigan’s regular-season finale, but the coaches voted before the game even took place.
Even though Werner wasn’t honored, he can’t feel too bad about his offensive game at the moment. He is in the midst of a career-best eight-game point streak. In that span Werner has registered two goals and 11 assists. In all, Werner registered six goals and 17 assists in conference play — two more points than the CCHA’s Best Offensive Defenseman, Greene.
Another Wolverine that did not win an award last night was forward T.J. Hensick. The sophomore was one of three nominees for CCHA Player of the Year. Northern Michigan goalie Tuomas Taarki beat out Hensick and Bowling Green goalie Jordan Sigalet for the honor.
Hensick — who led the CCHA with 43 points, five more than any other forward — was hopeful that he would win but knew he was up against some stiff competition.
“Those two goalies are two of the top players in the league,” Hensick said before the ceremony. “Especially (Taarki), but you never know, hopefully, the coaches are on my side. If it happens it happens, it’s a great accomplishment and a great honor (to be in the running). But if it doesn’t happen, I’m a lot more worried about the Super 6 than I am about player of the year.”
The only bright spot of the ceremony for Michigan was when senior captain Eric Nystrom won the award for the CCHA’s Best Defensive Forward. In 2003, another Michigan senior captain, Jed Ortmeyer, won the award. Oftentimes this season Berenson has compared Nystrom to Ortmeyer in that they don’t put up huge scoring numbers but do all the little things well.
“Best defensive forward was a great award for Jed Ortrmeyer,” Berenson said. “He was a senior, he was a captain and everybody around the league respected him. To me that was a very fitting award for Jed Ortmeyer.”
And fitting that Nystrom was honored in the same way.