Heading into his senior year at the University of Michigan, Pateryn will be taking on more responsibility than ever as one of the Wolverines’ alternate captains next season – not that he didn’t already have his hands full with one freshman in particular last year.
| Mac Bennett comments
“Being a freshman this year, he did a really good job both on and off the ice. Sometimes making the transition is tough but he was really responsible off the ice,” confirmed Pateryn, who posted career highs across the board alongside Bennett in 2010-11. “I met Mac two years ago at one of the camps so I got to know him a little bit then and we get along really well. I like hanging out with him and we’re actually going to be roommates at Michigan next year which should be pretty fun.”
As a rookie, Bennett notched two goals and 12 points in 32 games this year. But the 20-year-old Rhode Island native gives a lot of the credit to his blue line partner for helping him finish the season with a stellar plus-12 differential.
“Greg was awesome,” offered Bennett. “I was partnered with him probably until February and I loved playing with him; he was like my anchor. When I jumped up, I knew he would always be there to back me up. When you get to college, everyone is a little bit bigger and faster so there’s definitely an adjustment period that takes a couple of games, but it’s something you have to do and Greg was a big part of helping me adjust so quickly.”
Bennett was also able to pick the brain of another former Wolverine during their earlier days in the Canadiens organization, having roomed with Max Pacioretty during stints at development camps over the years.
“Max was great. He gave me some advice about what to expect heading in there and told me all about [longtime Michigan head coach] Red Berensen and how the team is run and that kind of thing,” he explained. “He was great with me – Michigan guys always help each other out.”
A veteran in his own right with three years of Canadiens’ development camps under his belt, Bennett is now paying it forward with some of the new prospects in attendance this week.
“I’m starting to kind of feel a little more like a vet here now,” admitted Bennett, who was drafted 79th overall by the Habs in 2009. “You see it when we go out there and do some of these skating drills. Some of the guys will ask me for tips and stuff like that since I’ve been here a couple of times before and I do what I can. If I can help them at all, I will.”
Having also roomed with Pacioretty at Habs camps over the years, Pateryn was able to learn from Pacioretty’s experience. But despite seeing the success players like Pacioretty or Michael Cammalleri have had in the NHL since leaving Michigan a little ahead of schedule, Pateryn never had any intention of making an early exit from Ann Arbor.
“A big part of going to play college hockey for me was getting my degree and then taking the opportunities I get from that. Growing up, school was always a big part of my life and my parents really stressed the importance of education,” explained Pateryn, who will graduate with a degree in Movement Science next spring. “With Michigan, it’s all about the experience while you’re there.
“It’s more than just a school; it’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” he added. “You meet some great people and get some great opportunities and as a player you really get treated like a pro. It’s a world class program just like the Canadiens are a world class organization. The rink and the fan base are just unbelievable. Even to this day, every time I step on the ice I still get chills. Yost isn’t the biggest rink, but it’s definitely the loudest.”
While Pateryn still dreams of making his NHL debut with the Canadiens after graduating, his main focus at the moment is on avenging the 3-2 overtime loss to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA title game last April.
“Every time you think about it there’s still a bitter taste in your mouth. It’s an amazing experience being there, but to be one shot away from winning a National Championship is just heart breaking,” admitted the 21-year-old Kinesiology student. “Going into senior year, that’s definitely the goal. Every team sets that goal at the beginning of the season and I think with the path we took last year, if we can keep that going and just tweak some things here and there we’ve got a pretty good shot. Being a senior now, you go in knowing it’s your last chance. But winning as a senior would make it even more special.”
Once they win their championship together in Michigan maize and blue next year, that’s when Bennett and Pateryn will finally start dreaming of patrolling the Montreal blue line together in Habs blue-blanc-rouge.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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