This is Michigan’s second trip to the Frozen Four in four seasons, but this year’s Wolverines are very different from the guys who lost their 2008 semifinal game to Notre Dame in overtime in Denver.
That UM squad – including this year’s seniors, who were freshmen in 2007-08 – boasted two superstar players with 30 or more goals apiece, Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik. That UM squad also had six additional players with 10 or more goals each, averaged 3.95 goals per game and scored a total of 170 goals in 33 contests.
This year, Michigan has six guys with ten or more goals – but no one with more than 18 and a season total of 142 goals in 28 games.
“The first year was definitely a different story,” said senior forward Matt Rust. “I don’t think anyone really knew what that team was going to do that year, coming in with twelve freshmen. That was pretty much Kevin Porter’s team.
“Starting off the season with the senior class we have [this year] and being the tight-knit group that we are, I think we had one goal in mind, and that was getting here.”
“Maybe this year, we might be more of a team than we were our freshman year,” said senior Carl Hagelin. “Like Rust said, we had Porter and Kolarik that were really leading the team and scoring a lot of goals. I think this year we might be better defensively. If we want to play well this weekend, that’s what it’s going to come down to.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson said that the seniors who ended their freshmen season with a Frozen Four semifinal loss have come far since 2008.
“I think they’ve got a deep-down confidence,” said Berenson. “They’ve been behind in games when they’ve found a way to come back. They’ve been in close games that they’ve held on, whether it’s killing a key penalty or winning a faceoff.
“I think the seniors have been really a key to this team. Louie [Caporusso] and Carl and Matt Rust in particular, they’ve been rock solid. [Chad] Langlais on defense, Scooter Vaughan up front – he’s had a real breakout season. I think it’s been the character and the confidence level of this team.”
Compared to that team in Denver in 2008, Berenson said, “We don’t have that one player or that one line that’s a dominant line or a dominant player. We’re just more of a team.”
“This isn’t a top-heavy type of team,” said Caporusso. “We’re pretty deep. We really pay attention to our own end and that’s kind of been the theme all year.”
There is one thing that lingers from 2008 for this year’s senior class.
“Freshmen year, there’s still a bitter taste in my mouth,” said Rust, “us getting so close and losing in overtime.”
It’s not enough to be playing in the Frozen Four again, said Rust. “None of us is truly satisfied with just getting here.”