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May 15, 2014

Hockey in the Pros: Former Wolverines excelling

It has been a good week for Michigan hockey after a pair of former Wolverines - Max Pacioretty and Carl Hagelin - advanced to the NHL conference finals while Andrew Cogliano will play in a Game 7 Friday night.

Now in his sixth NHL season with the Montreal Canadiens, Pacioretty ranked fourth in the league with 39 goals during the regular season and led the NHL with 11 game-winning markers.

In the playoffs, he's registered three goals and four assists, tallying four points total in the fifth, sixth and seventh games of the Canadiens' recently-completed Eastern Conference semifinal series with Boston. Pacioretty scored the game-winner in Game 7's 3-1 victory.

"You look at Max and his season, and he was one of the top power forwards all year, but it took him awhile to get going in the playoffs - the puck wasn't going in for him," U-M coach Red Berenson said.

"The Montreal coaches told him to keep playing hard and it will go in sooner or later. I was saying to our coaches here that if Pacioretty gets going, Montreal could beat Boston, and that's what happened in the last couple of games. He got going and they rallied from a 3-2 series deficit."

The 6-2, 217-pound New Canaan, Conn., native spent only one season at Michigan, in 2007-08, but occupied a key role on the top line alongside seniors Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik. He put up 15 goals and 24 assists as the Wolverines won CCHA regular-season and tournament titles and earned a trip to the Frozen Four.

"Max came out of a prep school and really wasn't scouted heavily and considered a first-round pick, but that's what he was the next year after a good season in the US Hockey League," Berenson said.

"We recruited him because [assistant coach] Billy Powers had seen him and thought he had some potential, but he didn't put up good numbers in prep school so you just weren't sure what he was ultimately capable of. He took off in the USHL and then in his year with Michigan."

In six NHL seasons, Pacioretty has scored 107 goals with 106 assists, putting up more than 30 goals in both 2011-12 (33) and this past year. He also played for Team USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

A four-year letterwinner for the Wolverines from 2008-11, Hagelin captained the Maize and Blue to the 2011 NCAA Championship game (the Wolverines fell 3-2 in overtime), and while an excellent player at U-M - scoring 61 goals with 91 assists as one of the top two-way forwards in college hockey - he was a sixth-round draft pick and did not have a guaranteed NHL future.

Hagelin played 64 games with the Rangers, however, his first full year out of school and has been a fixture in the lineup since, scoring 41 goals with 54 assists in 184 games over three seasons.

He teamed up with center Brad Richards and right-winger Martin St. Louis this year to give the Rangers one of the top lines in the NHL. In the Rangers' first two series of the playoffs, those three have combined for 11 goals and 13 assists - Hagelin's four postseason markers lead New York and he had the game-winner in NY's 3-1 Game 6 victory that forced a deciding Game 7.

"Carl has a different role than Max and continues to play well, and one of the reasons Richards continues to be as productive as he has been all year is because of Carl Hagelin," Berenson said. "Carl does a lot of the forechecking, backchecking, digging loose pucks out, making plays, creating turnovers. He's been an effective player all year for New York."

Cogliano's Anaheim Ducks will meet Los Angeles in a deciding Game 7 Friday night to determine who will play the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals.

The seven-year NHL veteran enjoyed his best season since 2007-08 (45 points) when he recorded 22 goals and 20 assists for 42 points during the regular season, while in the playoffs, he has a goal and five assists in 12 contests.

"He's like Carl -- he plays with good players and kills penalties, and creates offense for his linemates and for himself, but he's not on the power play like Max," Berenson said.

Though Pacioretty and Cogliano only stayed at Michigan for one and two seasons, respectively, both have gone on to become positive forces for the Maize and Blue program. Just as Hagelin has.

"If you talk to Cogs, he'll tell you, and he tells kids all the time, the best two years of his life was when he was at Michigan," Berenson said. "He's a great representative of Michigan. Max is too even though he was here only one year, and of course Carl goes without saying, he was all in. He was the one that stayed four years, was a captain and graduated. But they're all good kids."

And if Cogliano's Ducks continue to advance, Berenson will have a tough choice to make in the Stanley Cup Finals, as he's preparing to do when Montreal and New York begin their series Saturday afternoon (1:00 pm).

"I'll be torn," he said. "I've been hoping the Rangers would win but [former Wolverine] Jason Botterill is a big part of Pittsburgh as an assistant GM. But on the ice, I was hoping Carl would really do well.

"There is no question I wanted to see Montreal win. They have been the only Canadian team in the playoffs and watching Max lead that team in scoring was extra incentive."

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