Senior Kevin Porter has been playing teacher the past few weeks.
He’s scribbled on the dry erase boards, taught the drills and helped 12 freshmen get up to speed with the material in practices.
But that’s all been expected. Porter was appointed captain of the Michigan hockey team by coach Red Berenson six months ago, and because of a new common-start-date rule, the Northville native assumed those responsibilities. Before Saturday, coaches weren’t allowed on the ice for more than two hours a week.
What’s surprising is that he’s not the teacher anymore – he’s the student, at least when it comes to playing his new position at center.
Last season, Porter was on the wing of the spotlight line. Porter played alongside the nation’s points leader, then-senior T.J. Hensick, a two-time Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist.
It’s a whole different story now. Though Porter has settled comfortably into his leadership role, he’s still adjusting to the responsibilities of changing positions.
“He’s got so much more ice now,” Berenson said. “He’s not as limited to playing off of T.J. and playing the wing. He’s the guy. He’s coming back picking up the puck in our zone, he’s lugging it out.”
Following the game, Porter sounded like he was adjusting well, albeit with some inevitable early-season errors.
“It was all right,” Porter said. “I guess a few times I caught myself trying to come up on the back check as a winger where you can kind of stop up high. But then I clicked in after a second that I had to get down low and cover my man down low.
“I, think that was the toughest part and other than that, I think it went pretty well for the first game.”
So if Porter is comfortable on defense and produces ample scoring opportunities for his line mates, what does he sill have to learn?
Faceoffs. And he knows it.
The pre-season All-CCHA first-team member has been working with teammates, such as freshman Matt Rust, on one of hockey’s most important plays.
Although it didn’t show in Saturday’s Blue-White scrimmage (he went 3-for-10 on faceoffs), Porter’s practice paid off against Western Ontario the following day. He secured 11-of-16 faceoffs – the same numbers Hensick posted against Waterloo in last year’s opening exhibition.
“I know (Saturday) I didn’t do so well (on faceoffs),” Porter said. “But I think (Sunday) I did a lot better. I won the first four or five and then lost a couple here or there, but I think I did pretty well.”
And just as Berenson was confident in Porter’s ability to teach Michigan’s youngest team in a while, he doesn’t hesitate when asked about his faceoff skills.
“He’ll have to continue to work on face-offs,” Berenson said. “But he’s such a good two-way player. He’s going to make some adjustments. Overall, he’s going to be fine.”