YES: With 11 seniors, ‘M’ will be
desperate

• Sharad Mattu •

Every year is supposed to be the year. That’s just how it
is with Michigan hockey. So to fail to make the Frozen Four —
something that had been taken for granted — is
disastrous.

But just because the Wolverines fell short of expectations
doesn’t mean there’s nothing to take away from the
season.

Michigan was inconsistent all season long and pretty much took a
month off after reclaiming first place from Miami on Feb. 14. Yet
it still finished 27-14-2 and lost in the regional final. So
it’s not like they have far to go.

And, if the players think about it, they’ll realize that
if they had played hard each and every game (which even they admit
they failed to do), the season would have ended far
differently.

The CCHA did send five teams to the tournament, but they
finished a combined 1-5. And Michigan was easily the best team in
the conference, but could only eke out the regular-season title and
failed to win the Mason Cup. Michigan could’ve been the first
seed in Grand Rapids, but just didn’t seem to care
enough.

But next year, this won’t be an issue — Michigan
will win the National Championship. Assuming nobody leaves early,
11 Wolverines will be seniors, with nine playing regularly. Look at
this year’s captain, Andy Burnes. In his last season in the
maize and blue, effort was never an issue. And in Michigan’s
final game of the year, Burnes played terrific and even scored a
goal. Incidentely, the hero of the game was Boston College’s
senior captain Ben Eaves, who scored the game-winning goal despite
horrible leg cramps.

The point is, there’s no need to worry about seniors, and
next year they’ll have nine seniors on the ice compared to
this year’s one. Because the senior class this season was so
small, a lot of pressure was put on the juniors. They now realize
what it takes to carry a team.

With just one regular expected to leave, the team should be
ready from the get-go. There’s a capable replacement for
Burnes in freshman Tim Cook. And if any underclassmen leave,
recruits Chad Kolarik and Kevin Porter, whom Michigan coaches have
compared to T.J. Hensick and Jed Ortmeyer, respectively, will be
ready to step in.

What can’t this team do? They have a great goaltender in
Al Montoya and a deep group of forwards and defensemen.

This is a team that has no weaknesses, is coming back nearly
entirely intact and will be even hungrier than in past years. And
that hunger will make all the difference.

 

NO: Same players means same results

• Brian Schick •

After last season, hockey fans were disappointed that the
Wolverines lost another Frozen Four game to Minnesota. This season,
Michigan didn’t even get the chance.

This season was supposed to be the year to hang another
championship banner in the Yost rafters, with the majority of
Michigan’s key players returning. All it got the Wolverines
was a trip to Manchester instead of Grand Rapids.

Now that the season is over, it’s only natural to pencil
in Michigan into the Frozen Four again next year, right? Sorry,
next year will be more of the same for the Michigan hockey team.
It’s essentially the same team as last year, so why should
anything be different?

Inconsistency was the word of the season for the Wolverines. For
a team with so much talent, they should have gone back to the
Frozen Four. Trying to coast through the regular season cost the
team the chance to have a No. 1 seed and play in Grand Rapids, and
therefore avoid a team like Boston College until the Frozen Four.
But whenever the team needed a big win, it failed to capitalize.
Since just one player is leaving, the same corps of players will be
back for next season, and the lack of motivation will plague this
team again.

The schedule won’t be of much help next season, either.
This year’s road record was awful — 8-11-2 away from
friendly Yost Ice Arena. Next year, the Wolverines will travel to
Minnesota and Wisconsin for the College Hockey Showcase. In
addition, they will travel to the Upper Peninsula, as Michigan
hosted both Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State this season.
The Wolverines are also slated to take on North Dakota in the Great
Lakes Invitational. The way things went this season, Michigan could
lose all those games.

Perhaps the biggest underlying problem with the team this year
was off the ice. Even after losses at various times this season,
the players seemed to shrug off the game and chalk it up to a
letdown on that particular night; thinking that they could have won
if they had chosen to. The smugness factor and feeling that they
could win every game came back to haunt them in the final four
games of the regular season, when Michigan went 0-3-1 and backed
into the regular season title.

On paper, next year’s team has the talent to make a deep
run in the NCAA Tournament. The feeling that the team deserves to
play for the championship will keep the players from their
potential.

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