Just a few weeks ago, former Michigan All-American Mike Cammalleri stood in a Los Angeles bar, anxiously awaiting to watch the big game. Cammalleri, who bolted from the Wolverines this past summer after his junior year to sign with the Los Angeles Kings, was sitting with a handful of other injured Kings’ teammates. And they all had their eyes glued to the televisions and the Kings-Bruins game.

J. Brady McCollough

Cammalleri, who hasn’t skated in two months since getting his first concussion, made an executive order, telling the bartender to switch to the Ferris State-Michigan CCHA Super Six Championship game.

He watched his former teammates and classmates raise the “Mason Cup” – just like he had done last March.

And he probably couldn’t help but realize what he was missing out on.

Cammalleri’s senior class, with or without him, is going to the Frozen Four for the third straight season.

There’s no glitz or glamour with this year’s seniors – captain Jed Ortmeyer, John Shouneyia, Mark Mink, Mike Roemensky and J.J. Swistak. There’s no big names or Hobey Baker finalists – not after Cammalleri and classmate Andy Hilbert left the past two years. There’s no NHL teams banging on their doors.

But there’s grit and hustle. There’s heart and a blue-collar work ethic. There’s plenty of banners (two CCHA regular season titles, two Mason Cups, three Frozen Four berths).

And despite the adversity, the offseason departures and the injuries, there’s another chance at a national title.

“It’s not about who’s gone, it’s about who’s here.”

Swistak is used to hearing all the questions regarding players leaving the program. It happens every year (All-Americans such as Cammalleri, Hilbert, Mike Komisarek, Jeff Jillson and Mike Comrie have all left in past three offseasons).

And, much like the others in the senior class, he’s sick of answering them.

“It’s overblown big time, “Swistak said. “They’re great players, but they don’t make the team go.”

He’s right. It’s not one player that makes Michigan go. It’s five.

It’s Ortmeyer, whose bone-crushing hits, inspirational speeches and clutch goals make these Wolverines go. He plays hurt, and he he even plays with one leg (anchoring the first line last year despite suffering a slightly torn left ACL in early January). He’d literally run through a brick wall for his teammates, and that’s why they revere him.

It’s Shouneyia, who’s the Wolverines top returning scorer from last year, using his pass first, pass second mentality to give his teammates scoring chances.

It’s Roemensky, who’s playing the best hockey of his career, shutting down opponents’ top lines and giving a steady presence to a young, depleted blueline.

It’s Mink, who thought he’d never score again after a 30-game drought during the middle of this season, but scored two goals in the NCAA Midwest Regional finals last Sunday to keep the Wolverines’ season alive.

And it’s Swistak, who used to be a gritty, fourth-line grinder, unselfishly switching to defenseman.

“They don’t go out and try to be superstars every night,” said sophomore Milan Gajic. “They just do their job.”

Just days after the Wolverines’ heartbreaking loss in the Frozen Four last year to Minnesota – the eventual national champions – the 2003 senior class gathered in the lockeroom at Yost for a special meeting.

“We just told ourselves that we blew our shot (last year),” Swistak said. “And we made it a point that we were going to get back (to the Frozen Four) again, and we’re going to put our best foot forward.

And now – minus Cammalleri – the seniors are there, just like they said, quietly preparing their team for the trip to Buffalo, N.Y., for a chance to become the first Michigan senior class in five years to bring home a national crown.

Now that would be quite the legacy.

-Joe Smith can be reached at josephms@umich.edu.

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