ALBANY, N.Y. Fighting back tears, Josh Langfeld reluctantly took the podium after playing his final game in a Michigan uniform.
Exhausted and heartbroken, Langfeld held a great sense of pride as he continued to don his blue sweater nearly 30 minutes after Thursday”s game ended.
His Wolverines fell two games short of a national title in a loss to eventual champion Boston College. The loss closed the book on a disappointing season by Michigan standards. It”s the first year since 1988-89 that Michigan finished the season without hanging a new banner at Yost Ice Arena whether it be in celebration of a CCHA conference crown, tournament title, Great Lakes Invitational title or an NCAA final appearance.
Langfeld”s senior class is also the first not to win at least one GLI title in its career since the class of 1988.
But Langfeld wasn”t ashamed of the block “M” on his chest on Thursday night.
And neither he nor the rest of the nine-member senior class should be.
Langfeld, along with the rest of the seniors, gave his heart and soul to the Michigan hockey team in his four years. They played at their best when playoff time came around and found a way to bring the team together at the right time.
And that”s what they should be remembered for.
“Everybody counted us out at the beginning of the year and we had a few bumps along the way,” Langfeld said. “I think we handled the adversity great, we showed up in the last month of the season to definitely lead this group of guys. I hope they learned from it, and I hope we earned a lot of respect.”
At the very least, the seniors earned respect especially from their teammates and coaches the ones who know them the best.
Many doubted the Wolverines chances to make it to the Frozen Four after the preseason loss of leading scorer Mike Comrie to Major Junior hockey. The skepticism continued after a devastating fourth-place finish at the Great Lakes Invitational and increased on the heels of a disappointing 1-4-1 skid to end the regular season.
But when adversity stared the Wolverines in the face, and the team”s confidence faltered, the seniors were the rock that the underclassmen could lean on.
The seniors believed, and their winning attitude became contagious.
“Thank the seniors,” junior goalie Josh Blackburn said. “They stepped up and brought this team together when we needed to come together.”
Not only through their leadership, but with actions speaking louder than words, the seniors made their presence known on the ice. Just like in the glory days of their freshman year playoff run that brought a national championship, the seniors recaptured their scoring touch in crunch time, tallying five of Michigan”s 10 goals in the NCAA Tournament.
These contributions will not be forgotten by the coaching staff, as they are the ones who tried to squeeze every last drop of potential out of a senior class that was handed hefty expectations following a fairy-tale freshman year.
“There are a lot of college hockey players who would trade their careers for the ones the seniors had,” Michigan associate head coach Mel Pearson said. “Down the stretch they did a nice job. I know they”ll look back 20 years from now, and they”ll really realize that they accomplished a lot as a class.”
Not only are the seniors credited with two Frozen Four appearances and a national championship on the ice, these nine Wolverines will each leave Ann Arbor with a degree from the University of Michigan.
“They don”t have anything to look down upon,” Pearson said. “Individually they”re great kids and I”m just happy to be associated with them.”
It”s fitting that character is the first attribute mentioned by coaches when talking about this year”s senior class. Character is, after all, the cornerstone of any great Michigan hockey player.
And it is something that cannot be taken away from any of the nine Michigan seniors, no matter when they decide to take off their game sweaters.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com