If you told Michigan coach Red Berenson that two freshmen would lead his team in goals through the first two months of the season, he likely would have given you the patented Berenson grin and perhaps even a little chuckle.

After all, senior captains David Wohlberg and Luke Glendening, as well as junior forwards Chris Brown and A.J. Treais, were supposed to do the bulk of the scoring — especially with a third of the roster experiencing its first season of college hockey.

At first, Lindsay Sparks looked like he was going to be a major offensive weapon for the young Wolverines. The junior forward led the team with five goals in the team’s first six games, but he hasn’t scored since Oct. 27.

Wohlberg has picked it up recently, scoring two goals in the last three games, but that was preceded by a seven-game pointless streak.

Glendening’s forte has never been goal scoring — he’s much more of a two-way player. Still, his goal production leaves something to be desired. Besides a hat trick against St. Lawrence, he has scored just two goals and has recorded only one point since Oct. 22.

The offense has stayed afloat because of the kids.

Freshman forwards Phil Di Giuseppe and Alex Guptill are tied for the lead the team in goals with eight apiece, and Di Giuseppe is tied for the team lead in points scored with 14.

“It’s great freshmen can come in like this and make this transition and be productive,” said Berenson. “But you never know who is going to step up.”

Before the season started, Berenson speculated that Di Giuseppe and forward Zach Hyman would be the two freshmen to step up in the early stages of their Michigan careers.

Hyman started slowly, but Berenson still thinks the former Canadian Junior Hockey Player of the Year will have an impact.

Berenson may have guessed wrong about Hyman, but he was spot on about Di Giuseppe.

The Canadian-born Italian has played like a veteran from the onset, playing on the Wolverines’ only reliable goal-scoring line with Brown and Treais.

Watch him on the ice, and you almost forget he’s 18 years old.

The freshman that no one saw coming is Guptill, who landed in Ann Arbor without Berenson knowing much about him. Two years ago, Guptill broke a collarbone playing junior hockey, and he broke the other one the year after.

“Guptill had an outside chance of coming in, but if we were going to rank him I wouldn’t have had him near the top,” Berenson said.

Added Guptill: “I think (Di Giuseppe and I) both worked hard enough to try to put ourselves in this position, but you aren’t coming in as a freshman expecting to try and jump in and score. Anything we can do to contribute to the team, and right now, that’s scoring.”

Last Saturday against Alaska-Fairbanks, he took the puck off a strange ricochet from the skate of a Nanook defender and scored the winning goal, snapping the Wolverines’ seven-game winless streak.

Gritty plays like that are now expected, as Guptill has found most of his success by placing himself in front of the net and capitalizing on whatever comes his way.

“It’s a little bit of luck but its also being surrounded by great players,” Guptill said. “They are setting us up and making us look good. It’s easy for us to put the puck in the net.”

Guptill will be the only freshman phenom with an opportunity to pad his goal total on Saturday. Di Giuseppe will play on Friday and then leave for Alberta, Canada, for the Canadian World Junior team tryouts on Saturday.

Who would have ever guessed that the absence of a freshman in December would be such a big deal?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.