This past weekend, the Michigan hockey team did something it had not done since 1998.
It took a weekend off.
For the first time in four years, the Michigan hockey team did not play a game during a weekend (with the exception of winter breaks).
NCAA rules forbid coaches from conducting practices during weeks in which the team does not play. But instead of resting on their laurels, the Wolverines held captains” practices which left many players eagerly anticipating the return of the coaching staff.
“(Captain Jed) Ortmeyer and the assistant captains did a good job to make sure that the intensity was as high as it could be with the coaches not there,” sophomore defenseman Andy Burnes said after practice on Friday afternoon. “Some of the guys are saying they can”t wait for the coaches to get back out there, because man, that was a tough workout.”
While the practices were hard and furiously competitive, the players wanted to remain relaxed and have fun.
On Saturday, players were able to mix things up and play United States verses Canada scrimmages that the U.S. won in seven matches. On Friday, bluechip defenseman Mike Komisarek, was made a goaltender in a shoot around between several players.
Games like these help relax the team and have players excited about showing up to Yost Ice Arena.
“(Camaraderie) is something that we have never had here,” Ortmeyer said. “This is a tight-knit group and it really shows on the ice.
“Guys get along, love being together and love being at the rink. It is a good feeling around the lockerroom and we are excited about every day.”
But when the coaches hit the ice yesterday, it was back to business as usual and players were again accountable to coaches.
“When the coaches are out there, everything needs to be perfect and crisp,” freshman Eric Nystrom said. “There is a lot of pressure. How you play in practice impacts where you play over the weekend. I think you can play a little better without someone watching over your shoulder.”
It was clear that the players were playing with a higher level of intensity and were focused on an upcoming road trip against No. 6 Nebraska-Omaha.
“I thought the team played with a lot of energy,” coach Red Berenson said. “Hopefully, we are not too far away from being back in game mode.”
Berenson also stressed the collective work ethic of the team and the need to build on hard work.
“Work ethic is a habit and it is either a good habit or a bad habit,” Berenson said. “I want our kids to return with a renewed work ethic and come to practice thinking “I have to work harder” and “I need to execute better than I did last week or last year.” ”
Trading places: Missing from yesterday”s practice was freshman Milan Gajic who missed the last week of practice with an injured knee. He suffered the injury in the second half of last Saturday”s game against Alaska-Fairbanks.
Prior to his injury, the forward had been playing on the second line. Berenson does not expect Gajic to return to the ice before this weekend.
Also missing from yesterday”s practice was freshman Michael Woodford, who was sidelined with the flu, according to Berenson.
While the Wolverines will miss the two freshmen, they have the return of senior Craig Murray and sophomore Mike Roemensky. Both players have missed the previous two weeks of practice with shoulder and leg injuries, respectively.