If the Michigan Wolverines weren’t so much fun to watch, college hockey fans who are not among the Maize and Blue faithful might tire of UM’s same old, same old: excellence, year after year after year.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Michigan finished lower than third place in league standings; in that span the Wolverines have earned nine CCHA tournament championships, eight regular-season titles, and two national championships. To say that Michigan comes prepared to compete every season is an understatement — understatement being a staple of head coach Red Berenson’s vernacular.
“I think he has a knack for scoring,” said Berenson of UM’s top returning goal-scorer, Louie Caporusso, who last year led the league in overall goal production and was 12th in the nation in points per game (1.20).
Praise from Berenson — even when understated — is rarely without some balancing remark. Of Caporusso, Berenson also added, “He just needs to focus on being a solid two-way player and take advantage of his offensive chances.”
“He will do what it takes,” said Berenson, “to have a great year.”
And the worst news for the rest of the CCHA is that he probably won’t be alone in that in Ann Arbor. Even though the Wolverines return just three other double-digit goal scorers, they top both the coaches and media preseason CCHA polls because everyone knows that someone is always poised to have a great year in Yost Arena. There’s senior Brian Lebler, who netted nine goals last year, sophomore Luke Glendening, a walk-on last year who scored six goals, and even a couple of blueliners who can score. More and more, the Wolverines are becoming a very balanced, blue-collar squad that scores by committee.
Every defenseman who saw significant ice time is returning this year, including the likeable senior captain Chris Summers, and Bryan Hogan is now a tested goaltender, having finished the season as the starter after splitting time in net during the first half with Billy Sauer.
“We brought Brian Hogan here to be a No. 1 goalie,” said Berenson. “I think he had a lot of growth last year and gained a lot of confidence and experience. He got a feel for college hockey when he played in the CCHA playofffs and in the NCAA tournament.”
Add some talented recruits — Berenson said that chemistry will be important this season — and a favorable cluster that includes Bowling Green and Nebraska-Omaha, and what’s not to like?
There’s even an outdoor game against Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium Feb. 6. “I am looking forward to it, being an outdoor ice person,” said Berenson. “It’s what I grew up playing on.”
That he still has boyish enthusiasm for the game itself is part of what creates the chemistry and leadership that produces that sweet same old, same old in Ann Arbor.