First the good news – No. 2 Michigan swept St. Lawrence this weekend at Yost Ice Arena. Now the bad news – senior captain Mark Mitera suffered a knee injury Friday night and might be out the entire year …
Both victories over the Saints were in doubt. Michigan bested St. Lawrence 4-3 Friday night while the Wolverines' 5-3 win Saturday was much closer than the score – sophomore forward Aaron Palushaj breaking a 3-3 tie late in the third period. However, U-M got two wins, extending the program's Yost Arena season-opening weekend winning streak to 11 years (get that?).
Head coach Red Berenson will have much more to say about Mitera's injury on Monday but the early prognosis is bad news. Mitera, a former first-round pick, turned down millions from the Anaheim Ducks to return for his senior season.
"The news is not good on the MRI with Mitera," Berenson said. "He and his family will make a decision in the next two weeks on whether he will rehab it or operate on it."
Junior Chris Summers, named an alternate captain only a few weeks ago, stepped into the leadership void created by Mitera's absence and excelled. He also transitioned back to defense, after spending all of the preseason working at forward, and was solid.
"He played well," Berenson said. "He had to play well -- we needed him. Our defense was depleted. We had two injuries going into the game, and then when Mitera goes down early in a close game like that, [we needed Summers to step up]. Summers hadn't practiced on defense, but you can see that he can play it."
Pre-weekend injuries to sophomore Tristin Llewellyn and freshman Brandon Burlon left the Michigan blue line scrambling on Saturday. Llwelleyn returned and was rusty, but played well, notching his first career goal. Freshman Greg Pateryn and junior Eric Elmblad were pressed into duty also and survived the weekend.
"We mixed and matched a lot [Saturday]," Berenson said. "Llewellyn only skated on Tuesday this week so it is a tough thing to ask a kid to go out there and keep up with the pace of a game like this. But he played enough minutes tonight to help us.
"I thought Elmblad had a good weekend for us and some of our best defensemen played well at times. [Chad] Langlais and [Steve] Kampfer were definitely our strong defensemen, and Summers did a great job coming back on defense. Overall, we are okay, but we have to get better."
Llewellyn and Langlais each recorded their first career goal while senior forward Tim Miller notched a game-winner Friday and Palushaj was a standout Saturday with two markers. The offense, worried to be lacking following the departure of U-M's three best forwards, was plenty strong.
Both goalies, senior Billy Sauer and sophomore Bryan Hogan, allowed three goals. They were sharp at times, but permitted a few weak goals too.
They're 2-0 after an emotionally-charged weekend that could have left the Wolverines reeling. And they can improve, even without Mitera.
"Obviously we aren't where we should be, and it starts in practice," Summers said. "So Monday at 3 p.m., you are going to see a whole different team. It is going to be a whole other level of practice. We are going to come ready and we are going to come even harder next week." it in the net."