After advancing all the way to the Frozen Four the last two seasons, only to be sent packing after the first game, Michigan junior Andy Burnes has learned one thing.
“Looking back at (the last) two years now, (making it to the Frozen Four) is nothing – just being there is nothing,” Burnes said.
The Wolverines are no longer satisfied with just getting to the Frozen Four – they want to take the next step. They said the difference between playing for the ultimate prize or going home as just a semi-finalist for the third straight year will be the opening minutes of Thursday’s game against Minnesota.
In both last year’s loss to the Gohpers and its 2001 loss to Boston Collge, Michigan trailed from the first period.
“I think it all comes down to our start,” captain Jed Ortmeyer said.”The last two years, we put ourselves into a hole the first 10 minutes of the game. We came back, and I felt like we might have controlled the game from that point in the game, but we were too far in a hole.”
The importance of a good first period could be magnified Thursday because Minnesota has opened up early leads in its last four games.
“That’s good – it’s good for a wake up call for our team,” coach Red Berenson said. “The whole game could be on the line in the first five minutes. So we need to be ready for that.”
Michigan’s upperclassmen have all been to the Frozen Four twice, and just the freshmen and goaltender Chris Gartman have never been there, so that experience could help the Wolverines be ready to play as soon as the puck drops. Also, the team has been focusing on being mentally prepared and brushing aside any distractions.
Much has been made of Michigan’s senior leadership lately, and Burnes said he thinks that leadership will help the rest of the team stay focused.
And getting another crack at the team that ousted them last year could give the Wolverines a little bit of extra motivation.
“Last year’s game is in the back of our head,” Burnes said. “Nobody forgets the feeling of losing (after) being right there on the doorstep. It’s a terrible feeling, and you don’t forget the tears you shed.”
Both Ortmeyer and Burnes said Michigan has a different attitude going into the weekend than in the past two years.
“We’ve got just one goal in our minds and it starts Thursday night,” Burnes said. “Our first goal is to put ourselves in a position to win a National Championship.”