by Tim Rosenthal/Staff Writer
Head Coach: Red Berenson
2006-07 record: 26-14-1 (18-9-1 CCHA)
Key Returnees: Kevin Porter F SR., Chad Kolarik F SR., Tim Miller F JR., Brandon Naurato F JR., Billy Sauer G JR., Mark Mitera D JR., Chris Summers D SO., Steve Kampfer D SO.
Key Losses: Jack Johnson (underclassmen), Andrew Cogliano (underclassmen), Matt Hunwick, T.J. Hensick, Jason Dest, Tim Cook, David Rohlfs
Going into the 2006-07 season, everyone knew the Michigan Wolverines had one of the best offenses in the nation. With T.J. Hensick returning as well as contributions from Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik, David Rohlfs and others, the Wolverines averaged more than four goals per game.
"We had the best offense in the nation," said the legendary head coach of Michigan Red, Berenson.
"I was disappointed because I thought this was a championship caliber team."
The defense and goaltending was too shaky and inconsistent for that to be the case, however. And the team faces new challenges with the loss of Jack Johnson from the backline.
Seven times during the season (including the 8-5 loss to North Dakota in the NCAAs) the Wolverines gave up five or more goals.
Even though goaltender Billy Sauer did not have the best stats (.896 save pct, 3.03 gaa), he still collected 25 victories.
"He (Sauer) has had two good years of experience," Berenson said.
Unfortunately for Michigan, freshman Bryan Hogan, expected to push Sauer for the No. 1 goaltending spot, came down with mononucleosis and is out indefinitely.
Hogan is one of 12 incoming freshmen this season.
"It's a big class with a lot of skill," Berenson said. "Six or seven were drafted this season."
The class of 2011 includes Max Pacioretty, a first round pick in the 2007 draft (MTL), and five players who were drafted on day two, including Aaron Palushaj, Louie Caporusso, Matt Rust, Ben Winnett and Carl Hagelin.
"It is going to be exciting to see them on the ice," Berenson said about his recruiting class. "It will be a young team with only two seniors and without Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano, people will be asked to step up."
The Wolverines will be led by senior forward Kevin Porter.
In 2007-08 the Wolverines will need to replace two out of three players on the first line.
"It is still up in the air," said Berenson about potential replacements. "We only have one other senior Chad Kolarik who can be a potential center or right winger but it could also be one or two freshmen.
"We are a little more skilled, we have four freshman defensemen, there will be opportunities to step up for leadership including the junior class. There are some unknowns, but there are some surprises. Overall I am very optimistic."
There will be rough spots with potentially four freshmen on defense. The offense will still be there and be lethal. If goaltender Billy Sauer is capable of fulfilling his promise, the Wolverines will be all right.
Early season prediction: around first through fifth in the CCHA