For a few Michigan hockey players, last night was a sort of reunion with their former teammates, as Michigan hosted the U.S. National Under-18 team in an exhibition contest. But for most other Michigan players, last night was business as usual a 3-1 win.
Thanks to a few early first period goals and strong play from backup goalie Kevin O”Malley, Michigan defeated the U.S. National team 3-1.
Freshmen Jason Ryznar, Eric Nystrom, Dwight Helminen and sophomore Mike Komisarek all received the chance to play against the team of which they are all products.
“I think it was a good experience playing against the team,” Ryznar said. “I hit them a little harder when I could.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson decided to rest normal starters Mike Cammalleri, Andy Burnes and goaltender Josh Blackburn for the game. Despite the absence of these players, Berenson was still impressed by the work ethic and skill of the U.S. National players.
“I thought they were a good team,” Berenson said. “They skated well, and parts of the game I think they outskated us and outworked us. You can see that these kids are not out of place playing against Division I players, and most of them will become Division I players. They”ve got a lot of talent on that team.”
On goals by senior Craig Murray and freshman Eric Werner, Michigan jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period. Werner”s goal came at the tail-end of a Michigan powerplay as he put in a rebound left out front by Team USA goalie Tim Roth.
The U.S. National Team set the tone early on in the second period by controlling the puck for the majority of the time and keeping it out of its own end. But their efforts were thwarted on a goal by Michigan freshman Reilly Olson with just under 13 minutes remaining. The goal, which came on a shot from the right point, put Michigan ahead by two goals. That”s the way it ended.
“It felt pretty good to get out there and score that first goal,” Olson said. “I was pretty nervous, but it”s good to get that monkey off my back. It was a great feeling.”
The biggest threat to Michigan”s two goal advantage came during a five-on-three powerplay opportunity for the U.S. National Team in the middle of the third period. But the team was unable to develop an offensive attack against the Wolverines” defense, and the opportunity expired.
The U.S. Development program based in Ann Arbor has been a very popular source of recruits for the Wolverines. Other than the four current Michigan players who are products of the program, last season”s Hobey Baker finalist and offensive standout Andy Hilbert also claims roots on the team.
Last season was the first year the U.S. National Team played against the Wolverines. Although they left with a loss, Michigan fans were able to see then-Michigan recruits Ryznar, Nystrom and Helminen in action. This year, no U.S. National Team player has committed to Michigan as of yet, but Berenson does have his eye on a few players.
“We play this game for the USA program,” Berenson said. “I think it”s good for their players to play against Division I athletes, and team is based in Ann Arbor, so we want to support them.”