BOWLING GREEN – Good thing the Wolverines didn’t lose the extra “A” that was taken off of Eric Nystrom’s sweater prior to Friday’s game, because it went right back on Saturday.
Just as Michigan was celebrating the return of its two alternate captains, John Shouneyia and Andy Burnes, it lost another leader. Senior captain Jed Ortmeyer came out of Friday night’s game when he tore his MCL while attempting to check a Falcon skater into the boards. The right wing, who has tallied two goals and five assists this season, will likely be out 4-6 weeks. He tore the ACL in that same knee two years ago.
“(Ortmeyer) is not just a leader on the ice but off the ice,” Burnes said. “That’s why he’s our captain. He leads by example. He’s a physical player. In a game like (Saturday’s), we could have used him more than anything.”
After Ortmeyer’s injury Shouneyia was named captain and junior forward Joe Kautz entered the lineup for the fourth time this season. Nystrom – who was filling in as alternate captain when Shouneyia and Burnes were injured – was an alternate captain again Saturday. Nystrom’s sophomore leadership is an example of how a team that started the season tied with Michigan State as the youngest team in the CCHA is getting younger.
Ortmeyer’s injury put a damper on the first game this season for which the Wolverines could have had all three captains on the ice. Shouneyia played his first game of the season on Friday night after breaking his wrist in an exhibition against Toronto. Shouneyia lined up with Mark Mink in both games, and Mink had a four-point weekend. The senior centerman, who led the Wolverines with 40 assists last season, fed Mink for a shot from the right circle that gave Michigan a crucial two-goal lead on Friday night.
“It was just really exciting,” Shouneyia said. “I felt myself a little bit out of sync, a little bit behind being in shape. But it was really good to get out there.”
Burnes was diagnosed with mononucleosis after the season-opening College Hockey Showcase in Buffalo and came into the weekend unsure if he was going to play. The senior defenseman talked with Berenson about playing in Friday’s game, but the two both knew that if Burnes was allowed to play on Friday, he would want to play on Saturday. Unsure if Burnes would have the energy to play in both games, Berenson sat Burnes out on Friday and paired him up with Mike Roemensky on Saturday.
While he was not at full strength, Burnes’ special teams play was crucial, as the Wolverines faced six powerplays and successfully killed them all. Burnes also stopped a couple of key odd-man rushes in the game’s final moments.
“He’s one of our greatest leaders out here,” goalie Al Montoya said. “He shows it every single day in practice, and when he’s put on the ice I feel a lot more confident.
But with the losses of Ortmeyer, Jason Ryznar (shoulder) and Milan Gajic (academics) the Wolverines are far from being at full strength and might not be for a while.
“Everyone’s going to have to pick up the slack,” Berenson said.