For any team, Senior Night is a time to reflect upon the accomplishments and contributions of the outgoing senior class before the team gears up for possible postseason run.
For the Michigan hockey team, the emotions at this year’s ceremony will be a little different.
That’s because when the program honors its seniors after tomorrow’s home finale against Western Michigan (9-10-1 CCHA, 12-13-1 overall), the team has an entire month remaining before it starts the postseason.
The game will mark the earliest Senior Night that has been held in Michigan coach Red Berenson’s 23-year coaching tenure.
Someone looking at Michigan’s schedule this season might think that Sir Isaac Newton had a part in planning it. After hosting seven of its first games, the team heads on the road for seven of its final eight.
The early home finale will not diminish the event’s sentiment. The last time a player comes out the tunnel in front of the Yost crowd after four years of service will, no doubt, be an emotional one.
“Obviously, it’s a sad day,” senior David Rohlfs said. “You see Senior Night when you’re a freshman, and you think it’s far off but it comes quick. . You have a sad emotion because it’s coming to an end, but it makes you think about all the things that happened and you’re really happy that you came.”
Berenson prefers to hold a post-game ceremony because he feels that pre-game ones do not give the players the recognition they deserve. As always, the seniors will receive hockey sticks with Michigan flags draped around them.
The risk involved with doing it after the game, though, is that the result might not favor the home team, which is exactly what happened last year. Michigan led 3-0 going into the third period against Ferris State, but lost 4-3 in overtime, putting a damper on the event.
Captain Matt Hunwick said that last year’s game would be on the Wolverines’ minds this weekend, along with a resolve to prevent a similar result.
One way that Michigan (12-6-0 CCHA, 19-9-0 overall) can help ensure that Senior Night goes off without hitch is to concentrate and not think about the night’s special meaning.
The Broncos have already proven to be a formidable opponent for Michigan. They came into Yost on Dec. 1 and embarrassed the Wolverines, 6-3. The next night, Michigan escaped Lawson Ice Arena with a 6-5 victory.
“We just want to get the win,” said Hunwick, who tried to downplay the significance of Saturday’s event. “They’re a gritty, hard-working team, and we’ll be ready for that.”
The stretch of road games starts with tonight’s contest in Kalamazoo, which can be fierce road environment. Even though Michigan has won its last four games there, Berenson recognizes the danger that the fifth-place Broncos pose.
Western Michigan at Michigan
Matchup: Western Michgian 13-12-1; Michigan 19-9-0
When: Saturday, 7:35 P.M.
Where: Yost Ice Arena
TV: Fox Sports Detroit