ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Feel bad for Queens.
The Canadian school thought it would be a fantastic idea to spend the weekend battling Michigan State and Michigan in preseason matchups. But, instead, they became feed for hungry Spartans and Wolverines.
After a 14-1 thrashing by the Spartans, 14 hours later Queens left themselves open to the next swashbuckling by the Wolverines, who crushed the Golden Gaels, 9-0.
More importantly for Michigan coach Red Berenson, the exhibition was vital to process lines and evaluate his 11 freshmen for next weekend’s outdoor showdown with Michigan State.
Berenson has once again turned into a father, handling 10 new freshmen and a freshman walk-on, the most since 1997-98 when 10 new faces started Michigan’s run to a national title.
Michigan’s seven fresh forwards and four young defensemen fared extremely well Sunday. Eric Nystrom blitzed Queens for a natural hat trick, with three consecutive goals over the second and third periods. Nystrom’s linemate, both on the U.S. Development team and at Michigan, Dwight Helminen, added two goals and two assists. Freshmen defenseman Brandon Rogers had two assists.
“I liked them all,” Berenson said of the freshmen. “We played better than in our [Blue-White] exhibition Friday night.”
Michigan needed all of its freshmen, as forwards Mike Cammalleri (hip flexor), Joe Kautz (groin), Dave Wyzgowski (spleen) and Mark Mink (broken hand) did not play. All are likely to practice this week. Barring rough practices, Berenson expects all of them to be available for the Spartans. Defensemen Jay Vancik, who played despite recovering from a separated shoulder, and Mike Komisarek provided two first-period tallies to make it 2-0.
“Solid as a rock,” Berenson said of Vancik’s play. The lone senior defenseman has come a long way since he struggled as a freshman. “He’s a different player.”
Helminen and senior Craig Murray scored in the second off easy rebounds. Freshman Nystrom added notched two more scores to lift Michigan to a 6-0 lead.
Freshman Milan Gajic added the ninth goal on a pretty and patient play in front of the Queens’ net.
Michigan toyed with its opponent for the majority of the game, as the Golden Gaels could barely ice the puck at certain junctures. The Wolverines outshot Queens 66-10.
Following the game both team captains carried the American flag and skated around the ice as a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks.
Mark Francescutti is a freelance writer.