YPSILANTI – The Michigan hockey team far and away exceeded any expectations that were placed on it this year. With obstacle upon obstacle in their way, the Wolverines captured the CCHA regular season and tournament titles and made a trip to the Frozen Four.
Yesterday at the Ypsilanti Marriott the Wolverines took an opportunity to reminisce at the Dekers Blue Line Club’s annual postseason banquet.
The day was the last chance for the Wolverines’ players and fans to say goodbye to the four departing seniors: Josh Blackburn, Kevin O’Malley, Craig Murray and Jay Vancik.
“They were all willing to give up their own agenda – and they had to for us to be successful,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson about the seniors.
Murray’s career in the maize and blue was plagued by injuries, which cost him most of his first two seasons. He was healthy for his final campaign and posted 14 points (7-7-14).
“Coach told me (after my sophomore year), ‘We’re not closing the door on Craig Murray, but you have to open it,'” said Murray, who earlier received the Carl Isaacson Award along with Jay Vancik for having the team’s highest grade point average. “But it seemed like someone had welded that damn thing shut for awhile.
“This year has been the greatest group, and you can tell by the result on the ice.”
Blackburn also had praise for this year’s class and its success. The goaltender’s career was full of ups and downs, but Blackburn was always at his best in crunch time as seen by his spectacular performance during this year’s playoff run. He was named one of the three co-MVPs of the team along with forwards Mike Cammalleri and Jed Ortmeyer.
“I think the most satisfying thing is watching a guy with question marks surrounding him come in and perform,” Berenson said. “(Blackburn) showed right away that he could play – he gave us a chance in every game.”
Said Blackburn: “Before I came here, I didn’t really think I was the type of player to play at Michigan, but I knew right away that this was where I wanted to go. I got injured sophomore year – it’s a controversy that I’m not ready to reveal yet. Maybe I’ll put out a book.”
Vancik was honored for his leadership along the Michigan blue line. One of the Wolverines’ steadiest players, Vancik was also presented with the Joseph E. Barss Award, given to the player whom the coaches choose as the best team player.
“Sometimes I thought maybe Jay had a girlfriend and that was why he would get distracted,” said a smiling Berenson about his alternate captain. “Turns out he did. But we really never had to worry about Jay Vancik.”
Although he never saw much ice time, O’Malley’s contributions to the program were felt both on and off the ice. O’Malley spoke on behalf of the team during the Mott’s Children Hospital’s presentation of a “From the Heart” award.
“If I had to pick one player that had to give more of himself than Kevin, I don’t know if I could,” Berenson said.