April 11, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Berenson Running Out of Time

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Red Berenson has won two national titles as coach.

Red Berenson has won two national titles as coach.

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DENVER — Red Berenson has been through plenty in his career.

First, as a player at Michigan, falling short of a national title his senior year when he was expected to lead Michigan to one.

That was soon forgotten because, as the first college player to go directly to the NHL, he established himself as a star, scoring six goals in a game once.

His coaching career began in the NHL, where he won a Coach of the Year award with the St. Louis Blues.

But his true calling was to come back to his alma mater and resurrect a flailing program, which he did to the tune of two national championships — in 1996 and 1998.

But at 69 years old, and in the twilight of his legendary career, Berenson — though stoic as ever within a few minutes afterward — seemed particularly stung by the 5-4 overtime loss to Notre Dame in Thursday's NCAA semifinal.

"(Kevin) Porter and (Chad) Kolarik have run out of time, and I am too obviously," said Berenson, the oldest coach in Division I men's hockey.

This was a year where it all came together. The team hadn't been to the Frozen Four since 2003, and was picked to finish fourth in the preseason. But this team's blend of experience and youth, talent and tenacity, came together as well as any team in recent memory. The Wolverines won everything there was to win this season, until it got to Denver. They had a probable Hobey Baker Award winner, with a linemate who almost matched him goal for goal, in Porter and Kolarik. He had a goalie, still just 20 years old, come into his own during his junior season and play legitimately well.

And then it fell apart in 20 minutes.

Billy Sauer picked the worst time to resurrect his performance from last year's NCAA regional, allowing one bad goal, and two very bad goals. Berenson faced an agonizing decision — keep in his goalie who was having a devastatingly bad game, or turn to a little-used freshmen backup, Bryan Hogan, who may not do any better.

He went to Hogan, and it nearly worked. But Michigan allowed Notre Dame too much room to do its thing, and Hogan wasn't good enough to be the hero.

"It's just one of those nights," Berenson said. "Some of the best goalies in the NHL have a bad period. He wasn't sharp. Two of the goals were goals he usually stops. In fact, all three. ... I had to change the momentum."

Berenson looked shell-shocked as the Irish celebrated.

"It's not about me, but it's about the team," Berenson said. He did acknowledge, however, "I don't like to lose. It's a tough way to end your season, one shot when your team is so good.

"Am I disappointed? Absolutely. I give this team everything I've got, and they give me everything they've got. I feel like a player."

So Berenson was left to ruminate about his future, a future that seems to include one more season, but in all probability, not one beyond that.

"I have one more year on my contract," Berenson said. "Obviously I will fulfill that and we'll go from there."

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