Hockey notebook: Burlon expected back
The Michigan hockey team and key personnel departed at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, bound for St. Paul and the Frozen Four. For those hoping and praying these past few days, junior defenseman Brandon Burlon made the trip and he will likely play in Thursday's semifinal against North Dakota …
"He looks pretty good," coach Red Berenson said. "It's hard to tell until you get into a scrimmage situation about a player's timing and strength, but I think he'll give us an option."
Berenson wouldn't commit to playing Burlon - the junior has missed the past four postseason games after a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics for strep throat - but at Monday's practice, the Nobleton, Ont., native was paired with classmate Greg Pateryn on the blue line, a pretty strong indication the Wolverines will go with him.
"It's up to the coaches, but I feel pretty good," said Burlon. "I feel like I can help this team. I wouldn't play if I didn't think I was physically ready."
Burlon, second among U-M defensemen with 18 points, on five goals and 13 assists, lost 17 pounds while he was sick but has since put nine pounds back on.
"It's still a slower process than I want because after those first six or seven pounds I began skating and it's a little harder to keep the weight on but I just have to keep working and eating," he said.
"Not only do I feel comfortable when I'm out there but I'm also playing smarter. I can't be trying to outmuscle guys that are that much bigger than I am. You look at guys like [Detroit Red Wings defenders] Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski and they're not bigger guys but they use their stick and they position their bodies and can neutralize anyone with their smarts."
If Burlon can go, he will likely take freshman Kevin Clare's spot. The 6-1, 210-pound Clare has played well in Burlon's absence, contributing an assist and a plus-1 bottom line, but he doesn't have the experience of Burlon.
Top line eager to take on Fighting Sioux
Michigan's No. 1 line - senior center Matt Rust, senior left wing Ben Winnett and junior right wing Luke Glendening - will face its toughest challenge yet, slowing down a North Dakota top line that scored five goals and had six assists in the Fighting Sioux's Midwest Regional sweep March 26-27.
UND senior left wing Evan Trupp, senior center Brad Malone and senior right wing Matt Frattin (a Hobey Baker finalist) have combined for 69 goals this season.
Michigan's top line, by comparison, has recorded 16 markers this year, however, it's been superb in slowing opponents, limiting Colorado College's best scorers to a single goal - the trio had notched four goals and six assists a night earlier in a 8-4 upset over Boston College - in a 2-1 West Regional final victory March 26.
"We know they've got a proven top line that has been scoring this year," said Winnett, who has just three markers but is a terrific defensive forward. "I think Luke, Rust and I did a pretty job against two pretty good lines both games we played [at the West Regional] and we have to take the same mentality into Thursday night.
"The biggest thing is attitude. We have to go out there with the attitude that we're not going to let them get the puck or get chances, basically just have a mindset that we're going to shut them down, outwork them, look them in the eye and make sure they know that."
A co-captain, Glendening smiled briefly when he contemplated the matchup his line will draw Thursday.
"You have to be physical. You have to come back to the net every time. You have to be relentless in your work ethic," he said. "You have to do the little things right, block shots, draw penalties, lift sticks, make smart passes. Against a line like that, you just can't give them chances."
Odds and Ends
- The spotlight that shines at the Frozen Four, though not as intense as basketball, is significant. However, the Wolverines should not blink at the increased media attention. U-M was on television 29 times this year in 42 games, including a 14-game stretch from Dec. 30 through Feb. 19 in which every game was televised. The Maize and Blue are also used to a heavy media presence, speaking to reporters almost every day of the week during the season.
"It's good for our players," Berenson said. "They're used to the media, used to being interviewed in a lot of different scenarios. That's part of being an athlete, particularly at a school like Michigan. So when you go to these venues, it's not a big deal because they've been through it."
Redshirt junior Shawn Hunwick, for instance, probably will not get overwhelmed like goalies in the past have. He's been thrown into the spotlight like few players since taking over as Michigan's starting goaltender during the 2010 playoff push. Hunwick, 12-2 all time in postseason contests with a 1.71 goals against average and a .930 save percentage, is so self-deprecating and quick to deflect praise that heightened attention shouldn't faze him.
"He's used to being a team player and let's face it, his first three years at Michigan he never played a game," Berenson said. "He never attended any press conferences and yet, once he got thrown into it in the playoffs, he was very comfortable. He was very humble and very team-oriented and that's the way he is.
"I don't think he's carried away with any of this. Shawn Hunwick has handled all of this very well."
- Berenson was asked about his future, specifically if he will retire if Michigan wins the national title.
"No I'm not thinking that way," he said. "I have two more years on the contract here and right now I intend to fulfill them.
"But I'm running out of chances to get to the Frozen Four and to win a championship. Everyone has their reasons for wanting to do well, and mine is this is our 11th time [at the Frozen Four with championships in 1996 and 1998] and I hope we get to the championship game and give ourselves a chance.
"We've had a lot of games where we should have won, or we had the best team. Well, we're not the best team. We're an underdog team and we have to have a great game on Thursday.
"I'm trying to enjoy this and I want our team to understand it's an opportunity - it's not just another hockey game or another trip. It's an opportunity, and let's take advantage of it."