ST. LOUIS — Three weeks after the St. Louis Blues saluted him, Red Berenson’s back in town. Michigan’s hockey coach hoped it would work out like this.
The Wolverines are the second seed in the NCAA West Regional that begins Friday, making their 21st consecutive NCAA appearance in the city where Berenson once starred and later coached. Famous for his six-goal game in 1969, he was among four former Blues honored for wearing No. 7 with distinction.
“It’s out of our hands where you end up playing,” Berenson said Thursday. “I was hoping down deep that our team could come back here and have some success. So here we are, we’ve got to prove it.”
Yale (27-6-1) is the top overall seed and No. 1 in the East, making its third straight NCAA appearance and on a four-game winning streak. North Dakota (30-8-3) is No. 2 overall and top-seeded in the Midwest. Defending champion Boston College (30-7-1) is No. 3 and top-seeded in the West, while Miami of Ohio (23-9-6) has the top seed in the Northeast and is No. 4 overall.
Union (26-9-4) is making its first Division I appearance as the second seed in the East, Merrimack (25-9-4) is in the tourney for the first time since 1988 as the second seed in the Northeast, Rensselaer (20-12-5) made the field for the first time since 1995 and Western Michigan is the third seed in the Midwest after winning only eight games last season.
Others in the tournament include Minnesota-Duluth, Air Force, Michigan, Nebraska-Omaha, Colorado College, New Hampshire and Denver.
Colorado College freshman left wing Jaden Schwartz was the Blues’ first-round draft pick last year and has 15 goals and 27 assists in 28 games, recovering nicely from a broken ankle sustained while playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
Among others to watch in the West: Boston College goalie John Muse is 8-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in NCAA tournament play, Michigan freshman defenseman Jon Merrill was drafted by the New Jersey Devils and was named one of three best players for Team USA at the IIHL World-under 18 championships and Nebraska-Omaha sophomore goalie John Faulkner leads the nation with six shutouts.
The winners advance to the Frozen Four April 7-9 in St. Paul, Minn.
“The field of 16 excites me,” Boston College coach Jerry York said. “We’ve got some new participants and I think it’s generating a lot of interest.”
Boston College, which lost to Michigan State in the 2007 championship game in St. Louis, has an eight-game winning streak entering Friday’s game against Colorado College, with four of the wins by one goal.
“You get more experience by winning those games,” Boston College captain Joe Whitney said. “It helps you know that you’ll be able to find ways to win at the end.”
During Berenson’s heyday, the Blues played in three straight Stanley Cup finals from 1967-69, and he also coached the Blues from 1979-80. He’s been Michigan’s coach since 1984 and has 725 career wins, sixth on the career list, heading into Friday’s game against Nebraska-Omaha.
“This really isn’t about me, this is about our players and about our program,” Berenson said. “I know it’s good history, but this is what’s important, what these guys go through and their experience.”