Last season, the Michigan hockey team’s offensive output squarely rested on three sets of shoulders: T.J. Hensick, Andrew Cogliano and Kevin Porter.
Two-thirds of that trio no longer don maize-and-blue sweaters. Leading into the season, many wondered how effective the Wolverine offense could be.
And when Michigan’s third line – which includes two freshmen – posted 17 points in the Wolverines’ intrasquad scrimmage and exhibition game a month ago, some of this season’s questions were answered.
“We started off really hot,” said freshman Louie Caporusso of his line’s performance in the first weekend. “That has been really big for us so far. We just have been able to continue it. We all put 110 percent in every game. When we’re on our game, we’re going to be one of the most dangerous lines on our team.”
Depth was a key issue for Michigan last season. Cogliano and Hensick were responsible for most of the Wolverines’ offense, while the third line – Travis Turnbull, Brandon Naurato and Tim Miller – weren’t expected to contribute significantly in the point total.
Six freshman forwards have been brought on to solve that problem. By design, at least one upperclassman – Porter and Chad Kolarik on the first line, Miller on the second line and Turnbull on the third – lends his leadership and experience to each of the first three lines, and the rest of the spots are occupied by freshmen. Nowhere has this formula worked more successfully than Michigan’s third line.
“We’ve put a lot of thought into (the lineups) as to who could handle what,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “The one thing about Turnbull’s line is they had some early success (the first weekend). They got a little confidence and got some chemistry going, and I think that’s helped them out so far this year.”
Turnbull, who is complemented by Carl Hagelin and Caporusso, is a large part of why the Wolverines’ third line has worked so well this season. His plus-8 ratio leads the team.
The Chesterfield, Mo., native worked all summer to improve his game for the upcoming season. He woke up at 7 a.m. every morning to weight train, do drills and go over video to “take out some deficiencies” from his game.
“I really didn’t do too much else,” Turnbull said of the time he put in over the summer break. “I just knew I wanted to get better.”
As much as Turnbull worked to get better, he said he isn’t the main reason for his line’s performance this season.
The defensive aggression Caporusso and Hagelin add help keep the puck in opponents’ zone. The three have already combined for 18 regular-season points.
Michigan fans might commend Berenson for putting together such a solid third line, but with such little practice time with the team before the Wolverines’ first game, Berenson admitted luck played a part in forming of such an effective trio.
“It’s a bit of a guessing game,” Berenson said. “We hoped that Turnbull would give the line some muscles and some experience. He’s a good skater, so he should be able to keep up with Carl with Louie. Although I don’t know if anyone can keep up with Carl. I think it’s a little bit of luck. You put players together, and you watch them and see how they do. This line turned out to be a pretty good line.”