Senior captain Chris Summers was one of the last Wolverines off the ice Wednesday, relishing the chance to skate without pain after sustaining a deep thigh bruise in a playoff victory over Lake Superior State March 6. The defender is expected back for this weekend's NCAA regional …
Though he wears the 'C' on his jersey, Summers has been off limits to the media this week as he focuses on returning to the ice after missing four straight postseason contests. In his stead, freshman Lee Moffie has played well, contributing a goal and an assist while achieving a plus/minus of plus-3. However, the Maize and Blue will be happy to have their captain back.
"He brings an element to the team we need," junior defenseman Chad Langlais said. "He brings speed, size and leadership. During the NCAA Tournament, I think his experience and his ability to match up with the opponent's best line will really help us."
Summers has been out only two weekends and yet it feels much longer than that. In his absence, U-M surrendered just seven total goals (1.75 per game). Senior Steve Kampfer has also been playing his best hockey since being thrust into a leadership role, but the Wolverines are not concerned about chemistry issues once their captain returns.
"Not when he's a senior, not when he's one of our captains," head coach Red Berenson said. "The fact is he should be one of our best defensemen. It's not like he's been away for two months. He's been out of the lineup for four games.
"I'm pleased he looks like he'll be ready to go. As far as the chemistry goes, I've told Summers, I don't want him to worry about being the captain of the team. He just has to worry about getting his game back in sync so he can help the team."
Following Wednesday's practice, Berenson said he is over 80 percent confident Summers will return this weekend for Saturday's 7:30 p.m. Midwest Regional contest against Bemidji State.
"I thought he looked pretty good again [on Wednesday]," Berenson said. "He's such a free skater, and that's an advantage he has. And he's a senior. He's fit. He's worked hard in this whole rehab. If he gets through the next few days, he'll play."
Junior goalie Bryan Hogan still not cleared to play
While Summers is likely to be back this weekend, Hogan may still be a week away. The junior netminder has missed seven straight games after pulling his groin in the first period of a 4-0 victory over Notre Dame Feb. 25. In his place, junior Shawn Hunwick has earned every start and is 7-1-0 with a 1.80 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.
"I would have to really confirm that Hogan's ready to dress," Berenson said. "That means he's ready to go in and play if we really needed him. Right now he's not.
"That's up to the trainer to tell me he's ready to play. It's good he's getting the practice, but he didn't skate Tuesday and who knows if he'll skate [Thursday].
"With a groin, goalies are always going down and when you get up, you have to push off one side and it hurts the other side. He knows where it hurts and he'll tell me when it doesn't."
Berenson being careful with Hunwick
Hunwick doesn't come across like many goalies, known by reputation as zany, off-the-wall characters. A little older than most juniors - he will turn 23 on April 9 - the Sterling Heights, Mich., native is well-grounded and humble. After winning the CCHA Tournament MVP March 20, he heaped praise on his teammates and deflected credit.
Made available to the media on Monday this week, Hunwick will not be accessible until after the weekend (or potentially after a victory). Berenson is being careful with his starting netminder after seeing former goalie Billy Sauer (2006-09) fall apart in the 2008 Frozen Four following a media session that criticized his play before the semifinal matchup.
"There is no more goalie talk. We've been through that before," Berenson told a seven-person field of reporters yesterday.