Berschbach, WMU Prepare for Great Lakes Invitational
by Avash Kalra/Senior Writer
While heading home for the holidays is a highly anticipated break for most college students, this week’s homecoming for Western Michigan’s Shane Berschbach should be particularly enjoyable.
The senior forward will lead the Broncos into the annual Great Lakes Invitational event this weekend, this year set to take place outside, at Comerica Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers and roughly a 20 minute drive from Berschbach’s hometown of Clawson, located on the outskirts of the Motor City.
“It’s awesome,” said Berschbach, a lifelong fan of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings. “It’s going to be an unbelievable experience, just growing up pretty close to there. I go to a lot of Tigers games in the summers when I get a chance. It’s going to be pretty crazy playing hockey there.”
On Friday evening, the GLI kicks off with Western Michigan taking on Michigan – on a rink built on a field that’s hosted two World Series this century and in 2007 saw the first no-hitter thrown by a Tiger (Justin Verlander) in the city of Detroit since 1952.
And while the focus of the weekend will of course be all-hockey, the event – like many of the outdoor spectacles that have come before it – promises to be a home run for everyone involved.
“It’ll definitely be a great experience for all of us,” said Berschbach. “[Since it was canceled last year], we’re fortunate that we get to play there. We want to make the best of this opportunity, and we want to make it a good time.”
Berschbach, as a captain and as the leading point-scorer for the Broncos, will be counted on to help lead the way for Western Michigan, and although his role as captain and as an upperclassman means he naturally carries a lot of weight on his shoulders, it turns out that carrying weight is something of a new experience entirely for the senior forward.
Berschbach put on 20 pounds during the most recent offseason – and although he doesn’t exactly tip the scales with a pre-Christmas dinner weight of 165 pounds, his efforts seem to have paid off so far. He already has more points halfway through his senior season (21) than he had during his entire junior campaign (18).
“I tried to put on as much weight and as much muscle mass as I could put on,” said Berschbach of his offseason. “[My strength and conditioning coach] set some standards for me and told me what I needed to do.”
Berschbach also leads the NCHC in assists per game.
“I’d say I have pretty good vision on the ice,” he says of his playing style. “I like to pass the puck a lot. That’s probably my favorite thing about hockey, to set up a play.”
As a team, the Broncos have had an up-and-down first half, with glimpses of success – such as a pair of four-game unbeaten streaks this season – balanced with frequent warnings of inconsistency.
Heading into the GLI, Western Michigan – in last place in the NCHC standings – has lost three of its last four games, each by a one-goal margin, uncharacteristically allowing three goals or more in each game. Against Michigan (10-2-2) on Friday night, Berschbach knows his team has to be both opportunistic and stingy.
“We need to play as a team for a full 60 minutes,” said Berschbach, who experienced the NCAA tournament as a freshman and a sophomore. “We can’t be giving up these 10 minute increments in periods where we’re tying to collapse. Our power play needs to pick it up a little bit as well. We need to execute a little better.
“With those two things, we can have a strong second half.”