BOWLING GREEN – Saturday night’s game had ended, but an official still watched Mark Mink like a hawk. After the scrappy, hard-hitting contest ended in a tie, Mink was jawing with Bowling Green’s Steve Brudzewski. His display earned him a personal escort to the handshake line, where the officials continued to keep him under close surveillance. But that’s the kind passion Michigan welcomes from the soft-spoken forward from Livonia.
Mink, who has been a surprising scoring threat this year, has already netted four goals – just one short of his total from last season as a junior. He scored eight times in each of his first two years, but his production dropped off last season, as three of his five goals came in his last 11 starts. Michigan coach Red Berenson believes the difference this season is in Mink’s approach.
“I think he’s bearing down more,” Berenson said. “I think he’s making more of an emotional investment in his game. And he’s a real nice, quiet kid, but I think that’s how he has played the last year or so.”
This weekend, Mink ditched the nice-guy persona and played with fire, leading Michigan with four points in Bowling Green. Saturday, his high wrist shot from the left wing handcuffed Bowling Green goaltender Jordan Sigalet in the second period and dropped in for Michigan’s only goal of the game. The night before, he recorded a goal and two assists. Berenson liked the way Mink played in that game, “not just because he scored a goal, but because he really battled out there.”
Both games this weekend suited the winger’s grinding style of play, and he said having center John Shouneyia back on his line benefitted him. But his increased production this season may come down to the simple fact that this is his last chance.
Mink admitted to feeling a sense of urgency and said his attitude in his final season is to “just give everything you have each and every game. It means coming prepared every game – you can’t take a night off. So I’m just trying to have no regrets my senior year and just have the best year of my career.”
In one of the better weekends of his career, Mink had a few regrets, but they weren’t because of lack of effort or timid play. Michigan had no desire to leave the Bowling Green Ice Arena with a tie Saturday, and Mink led several rushes near the end of the game that could have put the Wolverines on top.
“Me and Johnny both had key opportunities with under three minutes in the game, and for those not to go in, it’s just disappointing obviously,” Mink said. “We have to bear down around the net. I mean a goal there, and that’s the game right there, that’s the win for us.”
But the fact that Mink is creating those opportunities when the game is on the line is a good sign for Michigan. With forwards Jed Ortmeyer, Milan Gajic and Jason Ryznar out of the lineup, Berenson expects more games like this one from Mink.
Berenson said he thinks that Mink has realized “he’s a senior and it’s about time he stepped up and became Mark Mink, the real player.”