When the Michigan hockey team left the ice following a 4-3 loss to Minnesota in the season’s second game, a lot of players were already looking six weeks ahead.

Jessica Boullion
Senior Kevin Porter looks to lead the Michigan hockey team to avenge an early-season loss to Minnesota this weekend. (ZACHARY MEISNER/Daily)

After playing the Golden Gophers closer than he had his entire career, senior captain Kevin Porter was already planning some revenge.

“Since I’ve been here, they’ve always beat us by a few goals,” Porter said after the loss. “It’s finally nice to come within a few. I know we have them at Thanksgiving, so hopefully we get them back then.”

The second-ranked Wolverines certainly responded well to the defeat. They have run off a nation-best 10-game winning streak and climbed to No. 2 in national polls.

Much has changed for Michigan between that first weekend and this weekend’s College Hockey Showcase, where Wisconsin visits Yost Ice Arena Friday night and Minnesota arrives Saturday.

“I think, because we’ve got some games behind us now, we know what the expectations are,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.

While Michigan’s 12 freshmen were a question mark during the season’s first weekend, many have emerged as leaders on both ends of the ice.

Three of Michigan’s top-five scorers are freshmen. Half of the team’s skaters each night are freshman.

The freshmen have also played a key role in honing the team’s work ethic, which has intensified since the loss to Minnesota.

“I think what’s changed for our team is we finally realized that we really can’t win on skill alone,” freshman forward Matt Rust said. “We have to work day in and day out. These games are battles, every one of them.”

While Michigan (8-0-0 CCHA, 11-1-0 overall) has fought its way through 10 straight wins, it hasn’t necessarily come against the best competition. Minnesota is the lone Wolverine opponent with an above-.500 record. Wisconsin and Minnesota will provide the best benchmark to measure early season progress.

While the 12th-ranked Badgers and 13th-ranked Golden Gophers may not have the gleaming records of seasons past, they are still top teams from college hockey’s toughest conference, the Western College Hockey Association.

“We’ve done a good job of winning games we should,” Porter said. “These are two games that are going to show if we can compete with the best teams in the nation. So it’s going to be a good weekend for our team.”

Porter has had a tough time in the Showcase his first three years at Michigan. In those six games, the Wolverines are 1-5.

Two years ago, Michigan hosted the Showcase as the No. 1 team in the nation. The Wolverines lost to Minnesota, 6-3, and Wisconsin, 3-2.

Like 2005, Michigan goes into the weekend with high hopes, but Berenson is wary of the same disappointing result.

“When you look at our schedule, who we’ve played the last month, we haven’t played anyone like either of these two teams,” Berenson said. “I’m very optimistic, but I’m realistic, too. I told our team (Monday), we’re going to have to play a lot better than we’re playing now.”

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