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Mark Burns: My sincere apologies to Louie Caporusso

Ariel Bond/Daily
Michigan forward Louie Caporusso (#29) plays against Michigan State in the CCHA tournament on Saturday, March 13, 2010 at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing. Buy this photo

BY MARK BURNS
Daily Sports Editor
Published March 15, 2010

At the tail end of last season, Louie Caporusso, then a sophomore on the Michigan hockey team, drew some 'Ho-bey, Ba-ker' calls from the Wolverine faithful, as the Woodbridge, Ont. native was a finalist for the coveted piece of hardware.

But after the first half of this season, there were no such cries from the hallowed halls of Yost Ice Arena — and there shouldn't have been.

About six weeks ago, I wrote a column about Caporusso's current season, and to put it frankly, I chastised him for his lack of production on the offensive side of the red line. Through the first 26 games of the season, Caporusso registered just six goals and was far off his pace from last year’s team-leading 24 lamplighters.

Caporusso hadn’t been playing that far off his potential and for me to come out and blatantly call him a “ghost” on the ice was clearly wrong — it just took him a little longer to hit that Hobey-Bakeresque level everyone caught a glimpse of last season.

Clearly Louie, you've done everything in the past 15 games to prove me wrong. Since Jan. 29, you've netted 11 goals and eight assists, with eight of those points coming in the Wolverines’ four playoff games. So, I'm sorry.

Over the course of the last month and a half, along the Wolverines’ road to Joe Louis Arena for next weekend’s CCHA semifinal matchup against Miami (Ohio), I’ve come to a realization about this group: as Louie Caporusso goes, so goes this team, one that's slowly turning NCAA Tournament hopes into a reality once again.

Between the team’s five-game losing streak in November — culminating in its loss to basement-dwelling Bowling Green — and its sweep of No. 2 seed Michigan State this past weekend, at this stage in the season, I still wonder which team will step onto the ice on any given night. Will it be the defensive-minded group that has shut down its opponents as of late or will it be the lackluster group that was swept earlier in the season by Miami (Ohio) and the Spartans?

But I’m sure about one thing: if Michigan is to clinch a tournament berth, it will be headed by Caporusso's offensive production.

He’s found his scoring touch around the net and has really let his game speak for itself. When he puts pucks in the net and marks up the statsheet, the Wolverines are far better off than when he’s absent — Michigan is 6-1 in its last seven games.

He’s passing less and shooting more, something Michigan coach Red Berenson has advised the 5-foot-9 center time and time again. His “keep it simple” mentality on the ice has paid positive dividends for the Maize and Blue, who are set to face the top-seeded Redhawks on Friday.

If Michigan’s ready to take the next step and win the CCHA Tournament, it will be led by Caporusso.

And when he does, I won’t be sorry I told you so.

Burns suggests giving blood to everyone in the near future. He gave blood yesterday in the Michigan Union and received a $5 gift card to Starbucks as well as a free Dunkin' Doughnuts donut with purchase of any beverage. He can be reached at burnmark@umich.edu