Michigan Adapts; Wohlberg Out for Season
by Michael Mark Florek/CHN Reporter
ANN ARBOR, Mich. For the past eight games, not much has been broken for the Michigan hockey team. Except its players.
The Wolverines went 8-0 and outshot their opponents by 54 shots; the power play has popped in six goals after going 0-for-its-previous-21; and the penalty kill has given up just one goal in 28 chances. But late in Michigan’s first game against Northern Michigan on Feb. 25 — the fifth of the Wolverines’ last eight games — senior forward Louie Caporusso went knee-to-knee with a Wildcat. He didn’t return in the series.
Two weeks later Caporusso was still out for Michigan’s CCHA quarterfinal series with Bowling Green. And late in the first of two games, junior forward David Wohlberg was sandwiched by two Falcons. He came up clutching his right arm.
“It was a vicious hit,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “He had momentum, he had speed, and he kind of ducked down and was vulnerable. And he got nailed really, really hard. I don’t know whether he hit the guy’s knee or his thigh, but it wasn’t like a shoulder-to-shoulder hit.”
Now as the fourth-ranked Wolverines prepare for the CCHA tournament semifinals against Western Michigan, the statuses of their two forwards couldn’t be more different. Wohlberg really is broken, or more specifically his collarbone is broken. He had surgery Monday. His season is over.
Caporusso is on the mend from what was only officially called a “lower-body injury.” He has skated in practice the last two days and has shown no ill effects from his knee-to-knee hit and plans to play this weekend.
“It’s feeling better than I thought it would, that’s for sure,” Caporusso said. “I probably won’t be the best I can be (this weekend) but I’m going to try my hardest to get back to where I was.”
The return of Caporusso provides some breathing room for a team that had just one healthy scratch last Saturday (freshman defenseman Kevin Clare) but Wohlberg’s impact will be missed up front. He was second on team in goals with 15 and fifth in points, helping Michigan to 12th in the nation in scoring offense.
Wohlberg also added a flair for the dramatic this season. He had two this season that tied the game in the final minute.
“You’re taking (away) a player that scores a goal just about every second game and that’s hard to replace,” Berenson said. “It’s not like we have 15 games to play. You hope that (sophomore forward) Lindsay Sparks or Louie or whoever gets hot and kicks in some offense when we need it.”
The New Jersey Devils draft pick provided a toughness upfront to go along with a scoring touch he found in his first year in Ann Arbor. As a freshman he surprised everyone by putting in 15 goals and adding another 15 assists en route to CCHA Rookie of the Year honors. He had just 25 points in 53 games the previous season with the United State National Team Development Program.
His sophomore season, he played in 44-of-45 games but was plagued by a back injury that hampered him for much of the season. His goal scoring numbers dropped by five.
“I feel bad for him,” Caporusso, who played on a line with Wohlberg for much of last year and at the beginning of the season last year, said. “Here’s a guy (whose) career here has been pretty much plagued by injury so far and when he’s healthy you can tell how great of a hockey player he is. He’s got a bright future ahead of him. These types of things happen. He’ll be back next year.”
When Caporusso went out, Wohlberg moved up to wing on the top line to try to replace the fire power Caporusso brought. As Michigan heads to Joe Louis Arena, Caporusso retakes his spot — not playing to replace Wohlberg but playing for him.
Yet, when the puck drops it will less about where everybody is and more about what actually happens. As long as Michigan wins, the conversation won’t turn to missing Wohlberg.
“You really can’t worry about who’s scoring the goals this time a year as long as you’re not giving up much and you score when you need to score,” Berenson said.