It may have been a disappointing season on the ice for the Michigan hockey team, but it’s so far, so good when it comes to the off-season.

Jess Cox
Matt Hunwick was named captain for the 2006-07 season. (STEVEN TAI/Daily)

Saturday night, at the annual end-of-season hockey banquet, Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin announced that coach Red Berenson had agreed to a three-year contract extension. The deal puts Berenson at the helm of Michigan hockey through June 30, 2009.

Salary figures for the new deal have not been determined, but Berenson made approximately $170,511 this past season in base salary and another $144,000 for television, radio, Internet and apparel sponsorships, among other things, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Berenson also had a stipulation entitling him to additional compensation for reaching the NCAA Tournament and the Frozen Four.

The new contract will go into effect July 1.

“I think it gives us our staff and our team the feeling that there are no question marks,” Berenson said. “In recent years, I would get the question about whether I would be back, and I just wanted to make it clear that I feel good about . our stability and our direction.”

This past season was Berenson’s 22nd, but it didn’t live up to the lofty standards he set in previous years. The team finished with a 21-15-5 record and lost in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament to North Dakota, 5-1. It was the worst season for the Wolverines since the 1988-89 campaign, when they also finished with 15 losses.

Prior to the current deal, Berenson and Martin agreed to contracts on a year-to-year informal basis. Now, like most college coaches, Berenson operates under a multi-year contract. Whether or not this is his last contract extension is up to Berenson.

“(The athletic department) has made me feel like I can coach here as long as I am comfortable,” Berenson said. “They know that I won’t hesitate to retire when I think it’s in the best interests of the program. We have a good understanding that if I want to stay longer, I can stay longer, and if I don’t, I won’t.”

New captains named: With the graduation of senior captain Andrew Ebbett and senior alternate captain Brandon Kaleniecki, the Wolverines needed a new set of players to lead the team.

One of last season’s alternate captains, junior defenseman Matt Hunwick, will step into the captain role for the 2006-07 season. As a junior, Hunwick was the de facto leader of the defense because there were no senior defensemen on the team.

“Matt Hunwick was already playing like a senior last season,” Berenson said. “He got the experience of being a go-to player on the ice, and he showed leadership off the ice. I can’t say it was an easy choice, but, for me, it was the right choice.”

Junior forward and leading scorer T.J. Hensick remains an alternate captain. Joining him will be junior defenseman Jason Dest, whose hardworking style of play drew comparisons to the departing Kaleniecki.

“I think Dest has the blue-collar work ethic,” Berenson said. “The team looks up to him in the locker room, as well as on the ice.”

The new captains will have to adjust to the team’s changing dynamic. The team will no longer rely on a group of 11 freshmen, who have never been through the grind of a college hockey season. Instead, a group of 11 sophomores will be key cogs in turning around Michigan’s fortunes.

“We won’t have to babysit them as much,” Hensick said. “That year under their belt is huge. . You are aware of what’s around you, and you know what to do and what is expected of you.”

Welcome Back: With Hunwick and Hensick returning to leadership roles for next season, it seems to confirm that that every non-senior from last year’s squad will be back for the 2006-07 season.

Hunwick was a seventh-round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2004, and Hensick was selected in the third round of the 2005 NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche.

Several weeks ago, freshman defenseman Jack Johnson appeared to be on the verge of signing with the Carolina Hurricanes, but eventually decided to stay at Michigan.

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