The Wolverine

February 2013

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Merrill upon his return to Ann Arbor, Trouba notched three goals and two assists, and it doesn't appear he'll slow down, utilizing the youthful exuberance that comes with being a teenager. At some point, though, the excitement will start to wear off, and the 6-2, 195-pounder must deal with the emotional letdown that has flustered former Wolverines, including forward Andrew Cogliano, who averaged 1.12 points per game before World Juniors in 2007 but just 0.41 points per game after winning gold with Team Canada. Like Trouba, Cogliano had a positive experience, but returning to the Maize and Blue, and regular-season play against the likes of Northern Michigan, Ferris State and Lake Superior State, just couldn't match the intensity of representing his country. Trouba, though, seems to be taking his holiday accomplishment in stride. "I'm excited to be back here," he said, genuinely. Players returning from World Juniors have blossomed too; defenseman Jack Johnson increased his point production by 0.61 in 2007, and with Merrill his partner, Trouba should have plenty of opportunities to continue scoring. "Playing with Merrill at World Juniors last year, I could tell he was a pretty special player," he said. Trouba is even embracing the hardship of skating for an 8-14-2 squad, and that positive attitude could be key to a second-half flourish. "I think it's good experience be- cause you're going to come across tough times down the line and you have to learn to deal with it, and look for the positives, and continue to get better," he noted. Talk Is Cheap Even while he sat in the north-end zone bleachers, watching practices in October, November and December, Merrill remained a vocal presence with the Maize and Blue, and his return has bolstered their confidence. But perhaps Merrill's greatest contribution is his approach on the ice the rest of the season; Michigan needs a wake-up call, and he's trying to deliver it. "We've been talking all season long and we can talk all we want about X's and O's, but it's just about getting the job done," he said. Berenson was expecting a bit of a 'Merrill-bump' when the junior returned, and it didn't happen, proving that one man alone cannot turn around a team's fortunes, but he can improve the Wolverines' dreadful special teams units — U-M ranked eighth in the CCHA on the power play (converting 13.0 percent of its chances) and ninth in penalty killing (82.1 percent) — while the Merrill/ Trouba combination in five-on-five play will give Michigan a chance to match a legitimate pairing against an opponent's top line. The two need help from their teammates, but the Maize and Blue need something positive to rally around, and if it's not goaltending, Merrill and Trouba offer the best hope of something better to come. ❑

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