As stockpiled as last season”s Michigan hockey team was offensively, the Wolverines were just as loaded defensively.
Standouts Jeff Jillson and Dave Huntzicker, along with stellar freshmen Mike Komisarek and Andy Burnes, combined with steadfast junior Jay Vancik to form one of the CCHA”s toughest defensive corps.
But shadowed beneath the big names the Wolverines put out on the ice, Mike Roemensky silently played one of the most consistent roles on the entire team. Roemensky was one of just five Michigan players that started all 45 games last year. The sophomore also led all Michigan defensemen with a plus-minus rating of plus-23, third-best on the team.
This year has been a different story. With Jillson and Huntzicker leaving the team, Roemensky was expected to play a large role on the blue line. But after Michigan”s first 25 games, Roemensky has suited up in just 14 contests, tallying zero points and a minus-7 rating while splitting time with freshman Nick Martens.
“It”s very frustrating,” said Roemensky about his reduced role this year. “But all you can do is come to the rink ready to practice hard the way you practice definitely has a lot to do with whether you”re playing or not.
“Michigan has a tradition of bringing in really good guys to play hockey, and you”re always going to have that you”re always going to be competing for a spot. Coach tells us that you”re never guaranteed a spot.”
Roemensky”s struggle of a season continued this past weekend against Michigan State, as his turnover in the Michigan zone led directly to Michigan State”s lone goal.
Meanwhile, Martens has been working his way into the lineup more often, with he and Roemensky often playing a game each during two-game weekends.
Instead of developing inconsistency in the defensive unit, Michigan coach Red Berenson is hoping the split of ice time will help his team.
“I”d like to see them both playing so we have that depth on defense,” Berenson said. “They”ve both shown that they can play Roemensky has more experience and maybe hasn”t been as consistent this year, especially defensively.
“Then Nick Martens comes in with no expectations, and he”s played a pretty consistent role. What we see in practice every day and in the games is going to determine who”s in the lineup.”
The battle for playing time also has increased the intensity in Michigan”s practices, with the players well aware that a solid week of practice could lead to a spot on the ice come the weekend.
“It makes for good competition in practice,” Martens said. “There”s nothing beyond the ice, though off the ice everything is great. You may not play as much as you want in games, but that”s the nature of the game and you”ve got to deal with it.”
Draining the power: Michigan State”s inability to score on its four powerplay opportunities last Saturday should have come as no surprise. With those four stops, Michigan has now successfully killed off 29 consecutive powerplays.
“Well, from my perspective, I think our coaches have done a good job preparing our team,” Berenson said. “But more than that, I think it helps that we have identified some penalty killers that we think are better penalty killers I think it”s a combination of preparation and concentration.”
The Wolverines last allowed a powerplay goal on Dec. 28 against North Dakota in the Great Lakes Invitational. After that goal, Michigan killed off three more powerplay chances in that game to begin the streak.
License to ill: With forward Mike Cammalleri already out of action with mono, Michigan found itself even more shorthanded at practice yesterday as freshmen Milan Gajic and Eric Nystrom sat out as well.
Nystrom is still battling an ankle injury that occurred when he was hit with a shot during Michigan”s game against Alaska-Fairbanks game on Jan. 11.
“He tried skating on it, and it was really bothering him,” said Berenson after practice.
Gajic, meanwhile, was fighting off an illness of his own. Berenson described the sickness as a stomach flu, and said that it was not anything Gajic had contracted from Cammalleri.
Turco still tops: When Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn recorded his 11th career shutout, 7-0 over Alaska-Fairbanks on Jan. 11, it was believed that the senior had tied former Michigan netminder Marty Turco”s career shutout record.
But Turco, who was in attendance for the Michigan win, believed he had actually recorded 15 career shutouts. Turns out he was right.
A mistake by the Michigan Sports Information Department led to the belief that Blackburn had tied the record, but Turco tallied four shutouts in his senior season to raise his total to 15 to go along with an NCAA-record 127 total wins.
His final shutout, a 4-0 win over New Hampshire, came in the Frozen Four and propelled Michigan to the national title game, in which it defeated Boston College, 3-2 in overtime for the team”s second championship in three years.