The members of the Michigan hockey team might have been the only Michigan students not watching the Michigan-Ohio State football game.
On Nov. 18, the hockey team had its own game to worry about. While all other Wolverine eyes looked toward Columbus, the then-No. 8 Michigan hockey team faced off against conference foe Ferris State.
Per Michigan coach Red Berenson’s rule that players not watch football on hockey game days, the Wolverines had no idea of The Game’s result until they finished skating to a 5-1 victory against the Bulldogs.
Soon after they left the ice, the Wolverines heard the score from Columbus. Those numbers were enough.
“We were going to watch it on the bus (going home) if they won,” sophomore Danny Fardig said. “But after we heard they lost, we weren’t doing anything for it.”
When they face off against Ferris State at Yost Ice Arena tonight at 8:05 p.m., the 11th-ranked Wolverines stand to attract a larger share of the campus’s attention.
Michigan comes into tonight’s game after capturing an important sweep of Alaska last weekend in Fairbanks.
Although Ferris State rests near the bottom of the conference standings, Michigan needs to perform well this weekend to stay on track for an NCAA Tournament berth.
“Michigan needs to sweep or it finds itself on the (tournament) bubble all of a sudden,” USCHO.com senior writer and hockey bracketologist Jason Moy wrote this week.
Recent play suggests the Wolverines are in an ideal position to take both games and avoid the dreaded tournament bubble.
Sophomore goalie Billy Sauer is playing his best hockey of the season, posting a 4-1 record and a .940 save percentage in 2007.
Hand in hand with Sauer’s improvement is better defensive play. Michigan (12-6-0 CCHA, 17-9-0 overall) has allowed just eight goals in its last five games.
“We’re starting to play better as a whole,” freshman defenseman Steve Kampfer said.
“Starting from the goaltending from Bill. And then the defense and forwards – everybody is contributing.”
Kampfer missed the team’s trip to Alaska while nursing a knee injury he suffered Jan. 12. The Jackson native spent the weekend in rehab, and hopes to be back in the lineup tonight.
Another injured Wolverine, star forward T.J. Hensick is also slated to play tonight despite practicing just once this week.
Hensick injured his lower body the night after recording his first career hat trick in the first game against Alaska.
“It might have been good for T.J. to have a few days off so he can recover,” Berenson said. “I think it’s good for a player, in the sense that you’re away and you think maybe your season has been taken away from you, but then it’s given back to you, and you say, ‘I’m lucky, I’ve got to take advantage of it.’ ”
It’s no surprise Hensick made sure to be back for this weekend. The Howell native has 10 points in 12 career games against the Bulldogs (4-12-2, 7-16-3).
Time is running out for Hensick and his fellow seniors to leave their mark on the Michigan program. After this weekend, the Wolverines have just eight regular season games to play.
While Berenson expects his team to host a CCHA playoff series, he’s happy to see his seniors playing so intensely as their collegiate careers being to wind down.
“I’ve already seen a little bit of a sense of urgency and better focus,” Berenson said.