The admissions are tough. The grading is harsh. The esteemed professor meticulously molds his pupils.
The Red Berenson School for Two-Way Forwards is an Ivy League-caliber institution. And the Michigan coach has gained a reputation for developing some of the most intelligent forwards in the sport, or “complete players” as Berenson puts it.
Sophomore forward Luke Moffatt has earned his fair share of gold stars this season. Berenson sees him as one of the more dedicated skaters on the team.
“He’s always been a hard worker,” Berenson said. “You couldn’t work harder than Moffatt.”
Freshman forward Zach Hyman added: “He’s one of the hardest working guys on the team.”
But Moffatt hasn’t always been the type of forward that best fits in the program. In fact, he was a very raw talent coming in — he possessed mediocre skating skills but was brilliant with the stick.
“He’s had a lot to learn like all other young, good players,” Berenson said. “I think Moffatt is much improved this year. He’s getting more confidence with the puck and (is) working harder without the puck. He’s bought into it, he’s trying and he’s doing a much better job.”
And far more often than not, it’s what players do without the puck that determines games, something Berenson constantly stresses. He has team meetings about how to play good, two-way hockey. He sifts through game tapes looking for examples of when the Wolverines skated well without the puck — or when they didn’t. When they did, chances are that senior captain Luke Glendening was instrumental.
Glendening and his fellow seniors take the responsibility of adapting their own playing style to the system and then teaching it to younger players. Their efforts have had a clear influence on Moffatt.
“(Playing both ways is) something I’ve been working on since I got here,” he said. “It’s just being more defensively reliable and knowing my positioning.”
Watch him this weekend at Yost Ice Arena, even when he doesn’t have the puck. Moffatt has learned from two-way players like Glendening, and he in turn is expected to help out the newest players to the program — mostly his linemates, freshmen forwards Hyman and Andrew Sinelli.
“On the backcheck, (Moffatt) comes back really hard,” Hyman said, noting that those are qualities he loves to see in a linemate. “He’s a great two-way player.”
But the most encouraging part about Moffatt’s recent surge — he’s scored twice in the last three games — is that he’s an extremely adept scorer, too. That’s what caught Berenson’s eye when he first observed the Arizonan’s raw talent. Though Moffatt has just four goals this season, they’ve all been timely — each has been scored with the game in a tie or one-goal differential. He has ten points with an impressive six plus-minus rating.
“He’s always been an offensive-minded player,” Berenson said. “That’s one of the hardest things for a good offensive player, to learn how to work hard without the puck.”
And what should the Wolverines do when they aren’t skating with the puck?
“You better play your position and get (the puck) out of the zone,” Berenson said. “You better back-check. You better watch your man. You better play the game.”
Moffatt knows how important this two-way style of play is to Berenson. And if his fellow players don’t buy into it quickly like he did, they won’t see the ice.
“If you’re not playing both ways … you’re not going to be playing,” Moffatt said. “You’re going to be practicing. That’s one of the things that’s just absolutely mandatory if you want to play.”
Sounds like someone wants to be a straight “A” student.