By Dan Rosen

Daily Sports Writer

After the most important weekend of the Michigan hockey team’s season to date, a series split with first-place Ferris State, it’s clear that the Wolverines’ freshmen forwards are for real. They continue to produce numbers beyond their years, and they’re drawing rave reviews from coaches and teammates.

Said Wolverines assistant coach Billy Powers of center Andrew Ebbett: He’s “a real good play-making center, a real smart center.”

Of Brandon Kaleniecki, Powers said, “He does all the dirty work but yet he can score goals.”

And as for Jeff Tambellini, “Right now, I don’t think it matters who he plays with. He’s just riding the confidence,” Powers said.

The three are all among Michigan’s top seven scorers. Tambellini leads the team with 27 points, while Kaleniecki and Ebbett are sixth with 16 points apiece.

These newcomers are playing so well that on Saturday, coach Red Berenson decided to bring them together onto the same line to provide the team a boost with the Wolverines trailing.

The freshmen responded, getting Michigan on the board 7:32 into the second period. With the Wolverines down four, Kaleniecki notched a score off of a nifty exchange with Tambellini at the top of the Bulldogs’ zone. The Livonia native launched a wristshot over Ferris State goalie Mike Brown to cut the deficit to three.

It wasn’t the first time this season that Michigan put the three newcomers on the same line to provide a lift. On Dec. 7 against Northern Michigan, they came together on the powerplay with the score knotted at zero. Kaleniecki gave Michigan a temporary lead on that sequence, roofing another wristshot off of a rebound.

“(They play with) a lot of energy, you know, it’s young energy,” Powers said. “They’re excited and they’re good.”

With another series with the Wildcats slated for this coming weekend, the newcomers could be back on the ice together. Powers said that while Berenson has made no decision as to what the lines will be, it is possible that the freshmen could be paired together at some point.

“It’s a positive that we can stick them together … and have a real good chance of making some things happen,” Powers said.

Going to work: Senior J.J. Swistak wasn’t pleased with his first weekend on defense. The West Bloomfield native switched over from forward last week to help make up for the loss of defenseman Eric Werner, who was declared academically ineligible by the Big Ten.

“I don’t think I did that well,” Swistak said. “If I’m going to play, I have to get a lot better.”

On Friday, Swistak was on the ice for Ferris State’s fourth goal, 14:37 into the second period. He played limited minutes on Saturday.

“I think I can get better, it just might take some time,” Swistak said. “As a forward, you don’t spend that much time skating backwards. But I’ll get used to it.”

Becoming a formality: Tambellini was named CCHA Rookie of the Week yesterday. It was the second week in a row and league-leading third week overall that the freshman received the honor.

The Port Moody, British Columbia native had three goals and an assist against the Bulldogs.

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