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May 26, 2010

Hockey team already looking forward to 2010-11

For much of the 2009-10 Michigan hockey season, there was something broken. But the Wolverines found their mojo just in time for the postseason, going 6-0 in the CCHA playoffs to earn an NCAA bid. As the summer begins, U-M hopes to avoid a chaotic offseason while building off last year's momentum …

U-M fans know the drill - the season ends and the early-departure watch begins. But not this year. Probably. Hopefully. There is no rumored candidate expected to bolt for the NHL. In fact, the Wolverines seem to be taking a cue from forwards Louie Caporusso, Matt Rust and Carl Hagelin, who all declared their intentions to return for their senior seasons.

"I think it just speaks to how close a class we have," Rust said. "When Max [Pacioretty] and Aaron [Palushaj] left early, we understood it was best for them but we're a class that really gets along and it's important for us to finish what we started.

"Our class came in with the goal of winning a national title and we haven't accomplished that yet. We made it to the Frozen Four our freshman year and then we had that run last season but we came up short. We're coming back this year with the intention of making it back to the Frozen Four."

Rust was named an alternate captain in April along with Caporusso while Hagelin, who the 'A' in 2009-10, will wear the 'C' alongside junior Luke Glendening.

"A letter on your jersey doesn't mean everything but it feels good to receive that recognition," Rust said. "[Head coach] Red Berenson wanted our team to take its time this year and elect a really strong core and I think that's what you'll get with Carl and Luke wearing the 'C' and Louie and I with the 'A'. I'm confident that the four of us will set a good example and lead this team the way captains are supposed to on the ice and off the ice."

Michigan was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in a 3-2 double-overtime loss to Miami (Ohio) in a Midwest Regional final. The defeat still stings the Maize and Blue, though they're ready to move on to next season and the promise it holds.

"For whatever reason, and I'm still not sure why, we just didn't play to our true capabilities all year long, but when our backs were against the wall, every man on this team played his best hockey and as a team we came together and played the type of hockey it takes to be successful in the postseason," Rust said.

"I think this team will carry that confidence of knowing every man is important into next year, and I hope that we play like we're capable of."

Perhaps the most interesting question will be what to do in goal. When Bryan Hogan went down in late February, most expected U-M to collapse but backup Shawn Hunwick went 8-3-0 with a 1.82 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.

"I think it was great because now Bryan Hogan knows he has to win the job every day in practice," Rust said. "Competition always makes you a better player. Louie and I compete every day in practice to be the top-line center, and guys at forward and defense are always pushing to get in the lineup. We have that at goalie now too and I think when each of them gets the call, they're going to be hungrier to play their best."




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