As quickly as they were at each other’s throats, they were back to being teammates patting each other on the back.

Yesterday in practice, Michigan sophomore forward Eric Nystrom and senior defenseman Mike Roemensky dropped the gloves and laid into each other for about 30 seconds following a drill.

They matched each other blow for blow and neither held the advantage when captain Jed Ortmeyer and sophomore Jason Ryznar stepped in to break things up.

But as soon as the two fighters released their grips, everything was back to normal.

“It’s an intense time of the year,” Nystrom said. “Season’s starting up and practices are intense. Things like that happen, but it’s over. The minute it was over we were joking about it.”

With the bout so evenly matched, no one could declare a winner.

“There was no winner, because it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s if you show up,” Nystrom said.

Although Michigan coach Red Berenson said he doesn’t encourage fighting amongst his players, he still likes the intensity and would rather see disputes settled with fists then by hitting each other with sticks.

For Nystrom, it is this type of intensity that has earned him so much respect from the coaches and players. Add that to his leadership abilities and there is little doubt as to why Berenson gave him the honor of being alternate captain in John Shouneyia and Andy Burnes’ absences.

“I don’t think the ‘A’ is going to change Eric Nystrom,” Berenson said. “It might make him feel like he’s a little more responsible for the rest of the team, but he’s a team player anyway.”

When Burnes and Shouneyia get back, it is likely that Nystrom will lose the “A” from his jersey, but the time with it as a sophomore is something that Nystrom will carry with him for years to come.

“There’s no question it’s a good experience and it’s a tribute when your coach tells you he thinks you can be a captain,” Berenson said.

With Alaska-Fairbanks (1-2-1) coming to town this weekend, Nystrom knows his leadership will be tested as he remembers last year’s homestand against the Nanooks all too well – the Wolverines won the first game 7-0, but lost the Saturday game 3-1.

“Alaska-Fairbanks is going to be a good team – they’re legit to win the league,” Nystrom said. “They’re going to come in here and try to run us out of the building. And we just have to play smart and keep it simple.”

And should Nystrom get into any physical disputes with the Nanooks?

“I’ll punch as fast as I can and hope I don’t get hit.”

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