Michigan Hockey Coach Red Berenson has seen a lot in his 19 years of coaching. But this Saturday, when he takes his Wolverines to East Lansing to play the Spartans in ice-sheeted MSU football stadium, he will take part in a piece of hockey history no other college coaches have ever experienced.
Dubbed "The Cold War," the unprecendented game between UM and MSU on a temporary rink built on the field at Spartan Stadium poses some interesting challenges for Berenson's team.
"We are excited about playing in this game because it's possibly a once in a lifetime game," Berenson says. "It's different than any game any hockey player in the history of the game has played in.
Berenson is taking a young team into what is a very intimidating arena. The crowd, expected to number more than 70,000--a record for an outdoor hockey game--will be a factor. Then there's MSU, the overwhelming favorite to win the CCHA regular season title.
Berenson says his team is focusing on the game as another contest against MSU and important points in the CCHA race.
UM coaches have used the relatively short time to prepare for the game by focusing on basics, Berenson says. Passing, moving out of the zone, defenses.
"We're going to just play our game," he says.
Michigan has added 10 freshmen to a roster decimated by the departure of 10 seniors last year. But the last time Berenson had this many freshman--1998--UM won a national championship.
In addition to the unusual venue and the media hype surrounding the game, the Wolverines will have to solve Hobey Baker Award Goaltender Ryan Miller.
Miller frustrated the Wolverines last year and has earned their respect.
"We respect him as a good goalie," Berenson says.
UM will send plenty of shots Miller's way. The MSU goalie has been strong at snuffing first shots and not giving up many rebounds. Berenson says Michigan will put bodies in front of Miller so he can't see the pucks.
The Wolverines also will try to screen out the distractions Saturday and react only to what's going on on the ice.
"In hockey, you can't think out there," Berenson says. "You have to react, you have to anticipate the action.
"The main thing is you to in there with a strong will to win," Berenson says.
Win or lose, the "Cold War" should give the young Wolverines plenty of experience to skate on for the rest of the season.