Sept. 13, 2013
The University of Michigan ice hockey team will hold its first official practice with the coaching staff on Monday, Sept. 16. Head coach Red Berenson, who is entering his 30th season behind the bench at U-M, sat down with MGoBlue.com to discuss the team -- which is just one month away from the start of the 2013-14 season.
Q: Is there added excitement to start the 2013-14 season with this being the first year of Big Ten ice hockey?
A: "I think every year has some things to look forward to and every year also has some questions about your team and how ready they are. I think the big thing that we're looking forward to is the Big Ten Conference. Our schedule is very tough, especially in the first few months of the season, and we have a very young team, with 10 freshmen. I expect to have a good portion of them in the lineup just about every night. This will be a real test for the youth on our team, but it will also be a test for the experience on our team, to help us get off to a good start. I know there's a lot of excitement in the locker room already, that we're getting ready for our first official practice on Monday."
Q: What kind of momentum does last season's finish give the returning players this season, with Michigan winning eight of its last 10 en route to the CCHA Tournament championship game?
A: "Last year was a real learning experience. It was the most difficult year that Michigan has had in a long, long time. And yet our team battled back, and nearly salvaged the season. We got it going to the point where we didn't think we'd lose another game. I think that experience was really valuable for our veteran players. They know the difference between losing and then getting it going again, and I think that will be really important heading into this year."
Q: Heading into the first week of practice, what do you typically learn from these early sessions with your team?
A: "With the returning players, you're looking for them to take a big step forward, a player like Luke Moffatt. Luke had been a good player for his first three years here, but we're expecting this to be his breakout season. Your senior year should be your best year. Hopefully Luke is an example of an experienced player who puts it all together this year. I feel the same way about our junior class and our other seniors. On the flip side you've got these young players, and you want to find out how ready they are for Division I hockey, and whether that shows up the first day of practice, the first week, or the first month. We'll get a handle on every one of those young freshmen and see if they are ready for all of this. It starts in practice and eventually in the games."
Q: With 10 freshmen, this will be the largest freshman class that Michigan has had in some time. What do you typically expect from freshmen early on as they adjust to life as a student-athlete?
A: "Since we don't play a game until the first week of October, they've had just about a month of school before we play. They've had time to get their arms around the class schedule and the routine to the point where there shouldn't be any surprises. They're learning early to balance their time. We'll talk about it, but they'll have to go through it. That's one of the reasons we have study table, to give our freshmen good study habits, right from the get-go."
Q: What do you think will be some of the strengths of this year's team will be?
A: "I think the strengths of this team will be some of the things we saw in the last half of the season last year, and the first part of that was goalkeeping. On the other hand, goalkeeping might have been one of the weaknesses of our team during the first half of the year. That's going to be a question mark, if (Steve) Racine can step up, is (Zach) Nagelvoort ready to give us some back-up time or will it be our two other goalies, Luke Dwyer and Adam Janecyk, who have been here. The depth in goal should be a positive. I like our forwards. I think our depth up front is going to be as good as we've had it in years. We've got a lot of young players, and some of those players will step into big roles. The question mark will be on defense, losing players like Jacob Trouba and Jon Merrill and Lee Moffie, three valuable, experienced defensemen. Our young players are going to have to step up."
Media Contact: Jeffrey Weinstein (734) 763-4423