A week ago, the Michigan hockey team’s deep defense was expected to carry what looked like a depleted offense.
After three defensive injuries in the past week, it’s now the opposite.
Junior defenseman Steve Kampfer is the latest Wolverine to suffer a severe injury that will keep him sidelined for an extended period of time. Michigan coach Red Berenson said Kampfer was hospitalized after an off-ice incident late Saturday night, but has since been released.
“He’s going to be out of the lineup for a while,” Berenson said yesterday.
Entering the season, Kampfer was the Wolverines’ second most experienced defenseman behind senior captain Mark Mitera.
Mitera suffered a “severe” knee injury in the first period against St. Lawrence Friday and is out for the foreseeable future. He “can hardly walk” right now, Berenson said. Mitera will determine whether he needs surgery within the next two weeks, once the swelling goes down.
The other blow is the loss of freshman defenseman Brandon Burlon, who sprained his ankle in practice last Tuesday. The second-round NHL pick won’t skate this week or against Northern Michigan this weekend. He’s likely out for a couple weeks, Berenson said.
Sophomore defenseman Chad Langlais is nursing a minor injury and sat out practice Monday, but he will still play against the Wildcats this weekend.
Junior alternate captain Chris Summers played left wing in the preseason, but he’s back on defense now.
“That experiment didn’t last very long,” Berenson said.
Even with Summers’ return Michigan’s blue line is still very depleted.
Junior walk-on Eric Elmblad and freshman Greg Pateryn, who was a healthy scratch Saturday, will be filling much bigger roles. Berenson also put senior fourth-line forward Danny Fardig on the blue line in practice yesterday.
“They’re depth players that are now in the lineup,” Berenson said. “We’re thin on defense, and we really need to focus on these guys being ready to play.”
Berenson was in a similar situation late last season. When defenseman Kevin Quick was dismissed from the team for credit card fraud and defenseman Scooter Vaughan missed time for jaw surgery, Elmblad started his first-career game in the quarterfinals of the CCHA Tournament.
Against Northern Michigan this weekend, Summers will be the only defenseman with more than a season of experience. Elmblad and Pateryn have played six career games combined.
“Obviously, this is a sense of urgency for our whole team,” Berenson said. “If our team’s going to have any success, our forwards have to do a good job of helping our defense. We can’t leave them back being outnumbered time and time again like even we did this past weekend.”
Captain status: With Mitera out, Berenson said Summers will serve as Michigan’s “acting captain” and wear a ‘C’ on his sweater. He added that the coaching staff is discussing giving out another ‘A’ or two. But it’s unlikely a sophomore would be given a letter this early in their career.
“I would consider it, but I don’t want them worried about that right now,” Berenson said. “I want them worried about playing. They all have good roles on our team. I don’t want them worried about being expected to lead the team.”
The most likely candidate for an ‘A’ is senior second-line forward Travis Turnbull, Michigan’s top returning goal scorer. Senior Tim Miller wore an ‘A’ for the first half of last season, but his play suffered and Mitera replaced him as an alternate captain halfway through the year.
Goalie update: Berenson reiterated his plan to have senior Billy Sauer and sophomore Bryan Hogan split time between the pipes this weekend. The pair will continue to alternate starts unless one begins to play much better than the other. Both goalies let in three goals against St. Lawrence.