“He does it quietly — just his style, there’s
not a lot of pizazz, not a lot of notoriety,” Michigan coach
Red Berenson said. “He doesn’t draw attention to
himself — he kind of deflects attention. But, when it’s
all said and done, whether you’re looking at him on the ice,
or you’re looking at him on paper, he’s a great
player.”

Ice Hockey
Junior Dwight Helminen earned Best Defensive Forward honors last night at the CCHA awards. (TONY DING/Daily)

Berenson’s words speak volumes of the Wolverines’
leading goal scorer. T.J. Hensick? Nope. Having undressed opposing
blueliners all year long, Hensick defines pizazz. Milan Gajic?
Remember, Berenson said, “quietly.”

Berenson’s description applies to junior center Dwight
Helminen. Helminen, known as “Dewey” to his teammates,
doesn’t receive the hype of many fellow Wolverines, but
he’s quietly put together the team’s most well-rounded
season of work. Last night, Helminen — Michigan’s
leader in goals with 17 — was named CCHA Best Defensive
Forward at the conference awards banquet.

“So you’re looking at him as the best defensive
forward and then you’re looking at him as our leading goal
scorer — that’s a pretty good hockey player,”
Berenson said. “I compare him to (former Wolverine and
current New Jersey Devils center) Johnny Madden.

“(Helminen’s) a great two-way player.”

Helminen, whose NHL rights belong to the New York Rangers,
attributes his defensive prowess to his speed and an innate hockey
sense.

“Basically it’s being in the right position,”
Helminen said. “And with my speed, I have the opportunity
— if I get caught out of position — I have the ability
to get back in position. I’m maybe a little quicker than
somebody else. But it’s just a matter of being in the right
place at the right time.”

Helminen’s line, which currently includes junior Eric
Nystrom and freshman Mike Brown, has routinely matched up with the
opponents’ top group of forwards. In facing the CCHA’s
finest in 37 games, the Brighton native has been called for just
two penalties.

“For our line, our priority is playing tough
‘D,’ ” Helminen said. “Our job’s to
go out there and shut down the other team’s top lines, and
when that happens, that’s when we’re usually getting
chances. Our line has just happened to capitalize on those chances
and it happens to be coming off my stick.”

Although Michigan’s lines have changed throughout the
year, Helminen and Nystrom have been almost inseparable because of
a chemistry they’ve enjoyed since first playing in Ann Arbor
on the U.S. Under-18 team in high school.

“It’s unbelievable,” Helminen said.
“We’ve been playing together since the U.S. program. We
know each other like the back of our hands. It’s huge playing
with a guy like that you know so much about and played with so
much.”

Helminen and Nystrom are two of the team’s 10 juniors.
Since the Wolverines have just one senior who sees regular playing
time, captain Andy Burnes, the junior class’s role on the
team has been heightened.

“It’s a little more responsibility and a little more
pressure, you might say, but it’s something we’ve got
to thrive off of,” said Helminen of being one of the
team’s elder statesmen. “That’s how I kind of
looked at it. It’s a chance for me personally and a chance
for our class to step up this year, show the team and show
everybody else that’s remembered at Michigan as a successful,
hardworking class.”

Hen-sick: In addition to Helminen’s award, T.J.
Hensick was named CCHA Rookie of the Year last night after leading
all freshman in goals and leading the entire conference in assists.
Hensick is the third freshman in six years to lead Michigan in
scoring.

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