ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan easily dispatched Lake Superior State, 5-0, Saturday. That much wasn’t a worry for the Wolverines.
More worrisome for Michigan was its crumbling blue line, which allowed the Lakers (4-18-4, 1-16-1 CCHA) to play with the Wolverines for a period.
Michigan’s blue line blues began Thursday. The Big Ten, which governs academic eligibility for the hockey program, denied a request to reinstate sophomore defenseman Eric Werner’s eligibility after he failed to muster a minimal grade point average — reportedly a 1.8 GPA.
The Wolverines also played Saturday without their best defenseman, junior Andy Burnes (groin). That left Michigan with a set of defenders that included two freshmen (Danny Richmond, Reilly Olson), two sophomores (Brandon Rogers, Nick Martens), a converted forward (Dave Wyzgowski) and a senior (Mike Roemensky).
“We put Reilly Olson in a tough spot and Dave Wyzgowski, and, obviously, they’re not as experienced or as confident — and it showed,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “But Brandon and Nicky Martens and Mike Roemensky they had to pick it up and I thought they did a great job playing with lesser-experienced players.”
Berenson wishes he had Mike Komisarek right about now. Komisarek was supposed to be the star of the defense. But he bolted for the professional ranks of the Montreal Canadiens before the season.
As far as Saturday’s game, the Lakers didn’t pose much of a threat after the first period. Michigan’s defense displayed its inexperience early as Richmond took the puck through an open crease instead of behind the net.
“He scares me,” Berenson said.
Olson let Adrian Kremblewski go right around him for a point-blank chance on goaltender Al Montoya. The puck ricocheted underneath Montoya’s pads and Montoya had to reach back and slap his glove on the puck to prevent it from dribbling into the net.
But Michigan outshot the Lakers 33-10 in the final two periods and 42-19 for the game, and the Wolverines might have put up 70 shots on goal with more accuracy.
Jeff Tambellini scored two goals and an assist for Michigan. Jed Ortmeyer had a goal and two assists for the Wolverines. John Shouneyia added two assists, including his 100th at Michigan.
Eric Nystrom and Michael Woodford also scored for the Wolverines (17-6-1, 11-4-1), who face the most difficult portion of their schedule starting next week against CCHA leader Ferris State. Michigan also has a home series vs. Northern Michigan, road series at Nebraska-Omaha and Ohio State plus four games against Michigan State.
Lake Superior, meanwhile, gets a weekend off to regroup before also taking on Ferris.
Berenson said Burnes should be ready next week. He could have played Saturday, but the team decided to rest him for next week.
Berenson also discussed the Big Ten’s decision about Werner. “We gave (the conference) some good reasons to give him consideration, and yet they went by the letter of the law, saying, ‘We never made an exception. There’s no precedent for this.’ They gave us a decision that sounded like it came from a legal decision rather than a human decision.”
Berenson refused to be more specific about the “reasons for consideration” to re-establish Werner’s eligibility.
Werner, who had 13 points in 20 games, has remained in school and will practice with the team.
Berenson has a history of being tough on players academically: he once benched star goaltender Marty Turco in a crucial game vs. Michigan State in 1998, and he suspended Milan Gajic for two games this season because of poor academics.
“We do a good job of keeping updated with our players,” Berenson said. “And if I find someone dropping the ball, then we’ll often take strides — we did that with Gajic.”