As practice began to wind down yesterday, the No. 2 Michigan
hockey team was in high spirits. After an arduous week of practice,
the Wolverines enjoyed a few laughs during the final tune-up of the
week before a weekend series against No. 17 Miami (Ohio).

Ice Hockey
Mike Brown attempts to score against Ferris State. (JOEL FRIEDMAN/Daily)

“It looked like everybody was making plays (in
practice),” senior captain Eric Nystrom said.
“(Wednesday’s) practice was pretty tough, but
(yesterday) we looked ready to go.”

The theme of the week’s practices appeared to be defense.
Despite failing to put a puck past Ferris State goalie Mike Brown
last Saturday, Michigan coach Red Berenson was happy with his
team’s play in the 1-0 overtime loss to the Bulldogs. He
believes the solid defense will lead to solid offense.

Nystrom echoed his coach’s sentiment.

“If the offense doesn’t light up, the defense needs
to be there,” Nystrom said. “We all need to buy into
the defense because we won’t score four or five goals a
game.”

Last season, Michigan took three of four from the RedHawks. All
four games were high scoring — with 32 combined goals between
the teams — in what Berenson called “heart attack
hockey.”

“This weekend is huge,” Nystrom said. “These
are the games that put you in first place, or the ones to knock you
out of first place.”

This weekend, special teams will once again be a key. Miami has
been explosive on the power play this season. In its final matchup
last year, Michigan went 3-for-6 with the extra man, while the
RedHawks put two in the net on five chances.

As the coaches filtered off the ice yesterday, the team was free
to enjoy the end of practice. Senior Milan Gajic rode his stick
across the ice to celebrate a faceoff win over Nystrom, while
junior goalie Al Montoya attempted acrobatic catches of pucks
flipped into the air by senior Brandon Rogers.

If the offense does ignite and the defense plays on the right
side of the puck, it’s a good bet that those smiles will
carry through to next week.

Quarter deck for Team USA: The U.S. National Junior team
announced its preliminary roster yesterday and named four
Wolverines to its initial group of 12. Montoya was the only
netminder selected so far.

Sophomores Mike Brown, T.J. Hensick and Matt Hunwick will join
Montoya on the team. Hensick and Brown are both newcomers to the
team, while Hunwick and Montoya return to defend last year’s
gold medal.

The team will compete in the IIHF World Junior Championships
from Dec.. 25 to Jan. 4.

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