When the Michigan hockey team”s season began, it expected heavy contributions from freshmen such as defenseman Eric Werner, forward Milan Gajic and center Dwight Helminen.
But over the last three games, the Wolverines have been pleasantly surprised by the positive contributions from other members of their freshman defensive unit, namely Nick Martens and Brandon Rogers.
Martens has played the last three games for Michigan since replacing junior Mike Roemensky in Michigan”s 5-3 win over Wisconsin on Nov. 24.
“(Nick) played that game against Wisconsin and seemed to be comfortable and confident,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “I thought he played pretty well over the weekend he made mistakes but all of our defensemen made mistakes.”
Then on Saturday, Martens was joined in the defensive rotation by Rogers. After junior Brad Fraser struggled in Michigan”s 5-4 win Friday night against Ferris State, Rogers was inserted into the lineup and paired with Werner.
“Rogers came in for Fraser, who struggled, and I thought that he handled himself well,” Berenson said. “That really helped us, because if Martens had failed the test or if Rogers had failed the test we might not be talking about having gotten two wins.”
With the two young stoppers in the lineup, Michigan managed to shut down the powerful Ferris State offense, en route to a 6-1 blowout victory.
Changes to the defensive rotation can threaten to take away from the sense of continuity built up between fellow defensemen. But Martens is convinced that no matter who is in the lineup for the Wolverines, the defense is capable of being successful.
“We”ve got eight or nine guys that can play all the time and we”re pretty comfortable with each other going into the games,” Martens said. “It”s easier when you know the guys you”re playing with, but we work with the guys all week and everybody knows how everybody plays and we”re able to feed off each other.”
AND THE AWARD GOES TO: Two Wolverines were honored by the CCHA for their performances in Michigan”s sweep of Ferris State.
Junior Mike Cammalleri was named the Offensive Player of the Week after picking up three goals and two assists for a five-point weekend.
Cammalleri scored twice on Friday night at Ferris State, including the game-winning goal of the Wolverines” 5-4 win with just 1:41 remaining in the third period. He then added a goal and assist in Saturday”s game.
Freshman center Dwight Helminen was honored with the Rookie of the Week award.
Helminen notched a powerplay goal in each of the Wolverines” victories and added an assist in Saturday night”s game to cap a three-point weekend.
“(Dwight”s) been a good two-way player he”s really helped us on penalty killing and he”s done a good job on the powerplay,” Berenson said. “He”s taking advantage of his chances the one thing Dwight brings is speed to every game and his speed has really helped put him in position for some of the goals that he has scored.”
It was the third-consecutive week that a Wolverine has received one of the CCHA”s weekly awards.
Sophomore defenseman Mike Komisarek was given Defensive Player of the Week honors on Nov. 26, and forward Eric Nystrom received the Rookie of the Week award on Nov. 19.
HIGH PRAISE: The NHL Entry Draft”s preliminary ranking of college hockey players includes three of Michigan”s freshmen.
Nystrom leads the way for the Wolverines, as he is ranked No. 4 out of all U.S. collegiate players.
Forward Jason Ryznar joins Nystrom in the top ten, with a No. 7 ranking, while Helminen is positioned as the 23rd best prospect.
Currently, 16 former Wolverines have played in the NHL this year, and eight others have already been drafted by NHL teams.