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Awesome news out of the athletic department today, as hockey coach Red Berenson has agreed to a three-year extension that will keep him as Michigan’s coach through the 2012-13 season. This breaks a long trend of Berenson signing rolling one-year agreements, which left open the possibility of retirement after each season. Count this as another big win for new athletic director Dave Brandon — locking up Berenson for three years adds even more stability to Michigan’s program and puts to bed any talk of retirement for a few years. Here’s the official athletic department press release:

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — University of Michigan ice hockey head coach Gordon “Red” Berenson has accepted a three-year contract offer from athletic director Dave Brandon to direct the U-M program through the 2012-13 season. Berenson, who played for Michigan from 1960-62, has been the head coach at his alma mater for the past 26 seasons.

“We’ve been doing a one-year contract of late and it seems like we’re spending a lot of time talking about when I’m going to retire,” Berenson said. “I think we can put that to bed for awhile and just focus on what we’re doing. The situation at Michigan is a little clearer in terms of recruitment or leadership of the program or what my future is. It’s pretty simple. I’ve thought about it a lot. I definitely was thinking about leaving earlier, but my passion has really been with this team and these players. They’re making a commitment to the program and I want my commitment to be clear as well.”

“I feel that this is a hugely important announcement for our ice hockey program and the athletic department,” Brandon said. “There aren’t a lot of Red Berensons in the world past, present or future. To have the ability to keep him and continue to contribute to his great work on behalf of Michigan ice hockey is an incredibly positive thing. We’re excited and I know he’s excited.”

Berenson also announced the Wolverines’ schedule for the upcoming 2010-11 season, which is highlighted by “The Big Chill at the Big House presented by Arby’s” that will be played on Dec. 11 at Michigan Stadium. [ 2010-11 Schedule ]

Berenson has led U-M to an NCAA-record 20 consecutive national tournament appearances, earning national titles in 1996 and 1998. His career winning percentage of .669 (670-328-69) is second in the country among active coaches. He has averaged more than 26 wins per season, reaching the 30-win plateau on 11 occasions. Berenson’s 699 victories rank sixth on the collegiate hockey all-time wins list; he is 45 wins from assuming sole possession of fifth place.

U-M has collected 10 Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season championships and nine CCHA Tournament titles with Berenson at the helm, all within the last 19 completed seasons. In 1994, he was the CCHA Coach of the Year and in 2008 earned CCHA and National Coach of the Year recognition.

For his outstanding service to hockey in the United States, the National Hockey League honored Berenson with the Lester Patrick Award in the fall of 2006.

During his collegiate career, Berenson was a captain (1962) and two-time All-American (1961, 1962). He holds a bachelor’s degree (1962) and a master’s degree (1966) in business administration from U-M.

Berenson played 17 seasons (1962-78) in the NHL, donning the jerseys of the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings. After serving as an assistant coach for St. Louis for one and a half seasons, he took over the Blues’ head coaching duties for three seasons (1980-82), earning NHL Coach of the Year honors in 1981.

Berenson is a native of Regina, Saskatchewan. He and his wife, Joy, have four children.

Class of 2010 goalie Jack Campbell chose to play in the OHL over attending Michigan.

Puck Daddy has some interesting news, both for fans of college hockey and video gamers — EA Sports has confirmed that the players and teams from all three junior leagues that form the Canadian Hockey League (the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL) will be in the next installment of their NHL series. The key passage for us Michigan fans is this:

Unlike in video games featuring NCAA sports where player names are made up due to the amateur status of the athletes, the CHL’s inclusion of player names in NHL 11 is to help bring greater awareness to junior hockey according to WHL commissioner Ron Robison.

From Buzzing the Net:

“We view this purely as a promotional exercise. There is really no financial benefit to the Canadian Hockey League or our teams or players. We were just delighted to be asked to be part of it … No, it’s not a commercial venture; it’s really a promotional venture from our standpoint to elevate the awareness of our program.”

With college hockey teams directly competing with the OHL for prospects, anything that increases the exposure for the CHL is probably to the detriment of the college game. As a hockey prospect looking for exposure, having your likeness appear in a top-selling video game has a great appeal, and while there are high-selling games out there for college football, there is no EA Sports College Hockey. Even if there was a college hockey game, as stated above, collegiate players’ amateur status means that their name (and, technically, their likeness, though EA has caught some legal heat for blurring the lines in that regard) can’t appear in the game — that isn’t an issue with the pros in the CHL. It may sound a little crazy, but when selling 16- and 17-year-old prospects on a hockey league, it certainly doesn’t hurt to show them that they’ll be in a video game if they sign on the dotted line.

It has always been tough for college hockey coaches to convince star prospects that spending four years playing in college for free can be a better option than getting paid to play minor league hockey (without having to go to school) — just this past year, Michigan lost the commitment of top goalie prospect Jack Campbell when he signed with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires and sophomore forward Robbie Czarnik left the team in the middle of the season to play for the Plymouth Whalers. That task may have become a bit tougher now that EA has partnered with the CHL.

As usual, LSUFreek sums last night up best, in photoshop form:


That’s Mike Cammalleri, who scored the game-winning goal (video here) in Montreal’s 5-2 victory over Pittsburgh in game seven of their second-round series, giving the ol’ finger-wag of denial to Sidney Crosby.

Yes, I’ve resorted to cheering vicariously through the exploits of a team from an entirely different country. That should just about sum up this year in Michigan, and Detroit, sports. Congrats to Cammalleri and the Canadiens, who will face the winner of Friday’s game seven tilt between Boston and Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Finals. Go Bleu.

Former Wolverine Mike Cammalleri leads the NHL in playoff goals this season.

I know I don’t write about the sport too much on the blog, but I would count myself among the dwindling number of hockey die-hards who still follows the NHL. While my beloved Red Wings were bounced by the San Jose Sharks in five games, there is still one team — and specifically, one player — that I’m still pulling for this postseason.

The Montreal Canadians have made an unlikely run from the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, bouncing top-seeded Washington in the first round and forcing defending Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins to a seventh game in their second round series, which concludes tonight. Canadians goalie Jaroslav Halak has justifiably been the story of Montreal’s run, but Michigan fans will certainly recognize the name sitting atop the NHL leaderboard in playoff goals: Mike Cammalleri, who has netted 11 goals and 16 points in 13 playoff games this season, including this spectacular goal in game two against the Pens, one of six goals he has scored in the series:

I shouldn’t have to name all the reasons you should be rooting for Montreal: a team from Canada hasn’t won the cup since Montreal in 1993, they’re the eighth seed that has faced the toughest road in the playoffs, and they’re facing that punk Sidney Crosby and a generally unlikeable Pittsburgh squad (yes, I’ll allow my Red Wing homerism to carry over to my Michigan blog — deal with it). Let’s add one more reason to that list: Montreal’s offense has been led by a former Wolverine, and after he scores in the Bell Centre, “The Victors” blares over the PA system.

Yes, Michigan’s fight song has found an unlikely home in Canada.

Facing a daunting seventh game on the road, Montreal will likely need Cammalleri to once again power the offense if they hope to stave off elimination. As a hockey fan, and a Michigan fan, I’ll be tuning in tonight at 7 — let’s hope “The Victors” will ring out many more times during these playoffs.

Image courtesy of the Michigan Daily (Ariel Bond and Allison Ghaman)

While the Detroit Free Press hauls in local journalism awards (sorry, no link here, you’ll have to track that down yourself) for their integrity-bending investigation into the Michigan football program, and while AnnArbor.com reporters crack jokes at the expense of incoming recruits, one local paper has been consistently churning out the best local coverage on Michigan sports, and it isn’t close.

I’m talking about the Michigan Daily. Yes, that’s the student paper, and they’re making the professionals look bad.

If you read one thing about Michigan sports today, please head over and check out Ryan Kartje’s tremendous piece on Red Berenson in today’s Daily. In it, you’ll find everything that has been lacking from other local news outlets: a lengthy, research-heavy piece that tells us a story we haven’t heard before, even when the source is a man who has been coaching at Michigan for 26 years. I won’t even post an excerpt, as taking out a paragraph or two wouldn’t do justice to the narrative Kartje weaves — I’ll just implore you to read and enjoy.

Kartje’s article, like Andy Reid’s amazing look into Pahokee football from last September (another must-read, if you haven’t already), is what the local media has been missing for a long time now — I can’t remember the last time someone sent me an email or posted a link saying I just had to read the latest from the Freep, or the Detroit News, or any of the other local papers. I’m not saying this to unnecessarily pile on to these papers — they have to churn out content every day, and they all employ reporters who do a very good job of covering the local teams on a day-to-day basis. When I read Drew Sharp’s latest off-the-cuff opinion “article,” however, it’s hard not to wonder why these local papers, employing full-time professional writers, can’t match what these Michigan students are doing in their spare time.

It’s not just the feature writers, either. The Daily’s beat reporters do a fantastic job, and having sat in a couple interview rooms, they’re often the ones asking the hard-hitting questions you’d expect from the people who aren’t, you know, students at the school they’re covering. They even break stories before the local papers. Again, I’m talking about students who are spending their spare time (a lot of it, but still) putting together the best local sports coverage around.

So, I ask you, if you’re looking for real quality reporting on Michigan sports, do yourself a favor and bookmark the Daily’s sports page, and make sure you read Kartje’s story today. I’m sure it’ll be the be the best thing you read on Michigan sports this week.

Leading scorer Carl Hagelin has stated he intends to return for his senior season.

Now that a week has passed since Michigan was completely screwed out of a Frozen Four appearance, I finally feel like talking about hockey again. So, let’s take a look at who returns, who is departing, and the batch of newcomers for Michigan hockey next season:

FORWARDS

Key departures: Brian Lebler (graduation), Robbie Czarnik (CHL)
Key newcomers: Luke Moffatt, Jacob Fallon

Barring some unexpected departures, Michigan should be very strong up front next season after losing just one player (Lebler) who participated in more than 12 games in 2009-10. Leading scorer Carl Hagelin could very well be a Hobey Baker contender after hitting the 50-point mark, and should be reunited with fellow senior Matt Rust to form one of college hockey’s most dangerous two-way duos. Add in sniper Louie Caporusso, and the Wolverines will be blessed with a trio of senior forwards who could all be up for postseason honors.

With just Lebler, Czarnik (who after 12 games this season for the CHL), and seldom-used Anthony Ciraulo gone from the forward ranks, the Wolverines will not only have star power but also great depth. A trio of promising freshmen forwards — Chris Brown, Kevin Lynch, and A.J. Treais — could be poised for breakout sophomore seasons, and 2008-09 CCHA Rookie of the Year David Wohlberg will be expected to produce more as well after a somewhat disappointing second season as a Wolverine. Seniors Scooter Vaughan and Ben Winnett, junior Luke Glendening, and sophomores Jeff Rohrkemper and Lindsay Sparks will provide third- and fourth-line depth, and the team will also welcome freshmen Luke Moffatt, the #35 overall prospect and a four-star in CollegeHockey247’s class of 2010 rankings, and Jacob Fallon (four-star, #37 overall) to the fold.

With Hagelin making recent remarks that both he and linemate Matt Rust will stay in school for their senior seasons, Michigan looks to be in great shape up front in 2010-11. Hagelin really came into his own as a playmaker this season, and if Louis Caporusso can consistently produce like he did in his sophomore season or at the end of this year, the Wolverines should boast one of the best offenses in the country.

DEFENSEMEN

Key departures: Chris Summers (graduation), Steve Kampfer (graduation)
Key newcomers: Jon Merrill, Mac Bennett, Kevin Clare

The Wolverines won’t get off quite so easy with the defensemen, as the team will lose captain, and top blue-liner, Chris Summers and top-four defenseman Steve Kampfer to graduation. Red Berenson has worked his usual recruiting magic, however, and Michigan will reload with a trio of highly-touted freshmen next season: Jon Merrill (five-star, #4 overall), Mac Bennett (five-star, #13 overall), and Kevin Clare (four-star, #31 overall) should all see the ice in 2010-11. Merrill and Bennett both have the potential to be top-four defensemen right off the bat, while Clare should have a good shot at being one of the six regular defensemen as well.

Those freshmen certainly won’t be without competition, however, as Michigan returns seniors Chad Langlais and Tristin Llewellyn, juniors Brandon Burlon and Greg Pateryn, and sophomore Lee Moffie from this year’s squad. Langlais, the team’s top offensive defenseman, should once again find a home on the team’s top defensive pairing, and Pateryn will likely join him after filling in for an injured Summers there during the CCHA tournament. Llewellyn, if he can keep out of the box, and Burlon are both solid second-pair guys, although they could be pushed by Merrill. The interesting battle will be for the last defensive spot — Bennett has great talent, as does Clare, and Moffie struggled at times in the defensive end as a freshman.

Even with the loss of two NHL-caliber defensemen, it appears Michigan will be strong on the blue line once again in 2010-11. That leaves hockey’s most important — and Michigan’s most intriguing — position group.

GOALTENDERS

By now, we all know the story: after a stellar sophomore season Bryan Hogan played nearly every regular-season game this season, and struggled, before going down with a groin injury and being replaced, spectacularly, by walk-on Shawn Hunwick as Michigan tore through the CCHA tournament and secured a miracle NCAA berth. With no departures or newcomers at the position, Michigan is now looking at a battle for the top goaltender spot, and for one, I have no idea how it will (or should) turn out.

Hunwick, after going 8-3-0 with a 1.82 goals against average and .918 save percentage this season, will be the sentimental favorite heading into next season, but there will be serious (and legitimate) doubts about whether a 5-7 walk-on can continue to play that well over the course of a whole season. Hogan, on the other hand, has proven before that he can be a stellar #1 goaltender, after a sophomore season in which he posted a 1.97 GAA and .914 save percentage in 31 games. After his numbers fell across the board in 2009-10, however, there will be a lot of questions about which Bryan Hogan will show up next season.

How this position battle is handled, and who wins it, will go a long way towards determining the success of the Wolverines in 2010-11 — Michigan appears to be loaded at every other spot on the ice, and will simply need a goalie who can consistently play well to make a serious run at the Frozen Four.

When I was growing up, I’d read the sports section of the Ann Arbor News and the New York Times every day, without fail.

Every day, that is, except after days when Michigan lost.

You’d think things would change, but all I wanted to do when I got up today was go back to bed, ignore everything that happened last night — and this morning — and try to pretend like this wasn’t the worst possible way to end the worst year in Michigan sports… ever.

We all know what happened by now: Michigan got completely screwed out of what should have been the game-winning goal in OT against Miami when the ref blew the play dead (or at least intended to) with the puck sitting uncontrolled in the crease. One OT period later, and a quick wrister got by Shawn Hunwick. Season over, in unbelievably painful fashion.

This morning, Manny Harris officially announced he was opting to declare early for the NBA draft.

To be honest, I’ve got nothing: last night took everything out of me — all the vitriol towards the refs couldn’t overcome the feeling of emptiness, of total defeat, that has accrued over this year of cruelty. So, I will keep my thoughts brief.

First, this Michigan hockey team was a joy to watch for the past few weeks, and should be remembered fondly for their miracle run and unbelievable play down the stretch. They played great hockey last night, and I think every team in the Frozen Four feels a sense of relief that the Wolverines won’t be in Detroit this weekend. If nothing else, that is something to be proud of.

To the hockey seniors — captain Chris Summers, Steve Kampfer, Brian Lebler, Anthony Ciraulo, and Eric Elmblad — thanks for four great years of hockey. I wish their careers could have ended on a better note, but one unfortunate loss shouldn’t ruin the memory of four years with a fantastic hockey program.

To Miami, I only wish them the best of luck. The team has gone through a lot this season, losing one of their student team managers in a fatal car accident, and have a very likable coach and team. The RedHawks weren’t the ones holding the whistles last night, so I hope Michigan fans have the decency to keep their anger directed at those who deserve it. Personally, I’ll be pulling for Miami to go all the way this weekend.

As for Manny, I again can only wish him good luck. Ultimately, this is a college student making a choice about his career (and a very lucrative one at that), and we have to respect the decision that he has made. Manny has played three tremendous years of basketball for Michigan, and has represented his school well. I hope he finds an equal amount of success at the professional level.

That’s really all I have in me for today. Like most of you, I’ll be doing my best to put this weekend in perspective and move on. Tomorrow I’ll have a breakdown about how Manny’s departure will affect the basketball program moving forward. Today, I’ll be doing my best to avoid the papers.