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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Michigan '07-08 Season Preview

by Matt Mackinder/MiCHO Editor-In-Chief

T.J. Hensick is gone.

So is Matt Hunwick.

And Jack Johnson.

Andrew Cogliano, too.

David Rohlfs will also be missed.

Not to mention Tim Cook and Jason Dest.

Still, even with 12 freshmen on the roster, Michigan doesn’t see this upcoming campaign as a potentially rebuilding year. Head coach Red Berenson called it “interesting.”

“Certainly the depth of our team should be good, but the experience will be a question mark,” said Berenson, starting his 24th season behind the Wolverines’ bench. “This will be the most interesting season in the recent past for the coaching staff at Michigan and certainly for the players. I like the incoming freshman from what I know of them and what I've seen.

“We've got a long season. We have a tough schedule. We start off against Boston College in the Ice Breaker in Minnesota and that'll give us a bit of a wake-up call as to the level of hockey we'll have to play.”

All six incoming forwards – Max Pacioretty (first round Montreal), Louie Caporusso (Ottawa), Matt Rust (Florida), Ben Winnett (Toronto), Aaron Palushaj (St. Louis) and Carl Hagelin (New York Rangers) – were taken in June’s NHL Entry Draft and all six should make an immediate impact in Ann Arbor.

The remaining half dozen include goalies Bryan Hogan and Shawn Hunwick (Matt's younger brother) and defensemen Tristin Llewellyn, Kevin Quick (Tampa Bay), Chad Langlais and Scooter Vaughan. The four freshmen defenders join returnees Chris Summers (Phoenix first round 2006), Mark Mitera (Anaheim first round 2006) and Steve Kampfer (Anaheim). Summers also played a bit of forward last year.

Incumbent starter Billy Sauer (Colorado) will start the majority of games in goal and Hunwick and Hogan will battle for the No. 2 job. Sauer went 25-14-1 a year ago with a 3.03 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage.

The Wolverines as a team were 26-14-1 a year ago with a 18-9-1 second place CCHA finish.

Cogliano (Edmonton) and Johnson (Los Angeles) left Michigan for the NHL after last season’s disappointing loss in the West Regionals to North Dakota. Hensick (Colorado) and Hunwick (Boston) both graduated and signed NHL deals. Michigan will surely miss Hensick and his 69 points from 2006-2007.

This season, U-M has just two seniors in new captain Kevin Porter (pictured) and Chad Kolarik - two more Phoenix picks. Porter is college hockey's highest returning scorer this season after putting up 24 goals and 58 points a season ago playing on a line with Hensick.

“I'm glad to see Kevin Porter come back for his senior year,” added Berenson.

Also back up front are juniors Travis Turnbull, assistant captain Tim Miller, Brandon Naurato and Danny Fardig and sophomores Brian Lebler and Anthony Ciraulo.

"This will be a big year for Michigan in terms of a challenge,” Berenson noted. “Last year, we sat here and we knew we'd be a good team because of T.J. Hensick and Matt Hunwick and Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano and our big senior class, but all those guys are gone.”

Senior forward Chris Fragner and sophomore defenseman Eric Elmblad may fill in when needed. Last year's backup goaltenders - Mike Mayhew (graduated) and Steve Jakiel (transferred to D-III Curry College) - have moved on.

Porter offered his assessment of this year's team.

“We’ll have a very young team, obviously,” said Porter. “But if we come out with a good start and get five or six wins early, I think we should be OK.”

Michigan kicks off their season Sunday, Oct. 7 at home with an exhibition game against Western Ontario and then play national runner-up Boston College five days later.

Photo courtesy U-M Photo Services

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