MONTREAL – It’s amazing the difference a year can make. In his second season of collegiate hockey, Mac Bennett has elevated his game to the next level, becoming an integral member of the University of Michigan Wolverines in the process.
Arriving in a new environment and finding your place with a new team naturally comes with its share of challenges to face and overcome. Often, all it takes is a little time to familiarize and adapt before you find yourself discovering gears you never knew you had. Such was the case for Mac Bennett in 2010-11 when he joined the ranks of the Wolverines, unaware of the full scope of what awaited him there.
|Bennett was selected by the Canadiens in the third round, 79th overall, in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. |
“Last year, stepping in, I really didn’t know what to expect and how much faster the game was going to be,” confessed the Habs’ third-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. “The biggest difference between my freshman year and my sophomore year has been my confidence. At the beginning of this season, I went out there with the knowledge of what I was dealing with ahead of time – already having a year under my belt. That year made such a huge difference. I knew that I could step up and I knew that I could bring my game to another level.”
The sophomore defenseman’s boost in confidence has been enough to allow Bennett to up his personal statistics across the board, beginning with his four goals and 17 assists this season. The rise in the Rhode Island native’s game has more than a little to do with the increased responsibilities he found himself tasked with both with on the ice and in the room.
Along the way, Bennett has been able to count on defensive partner, good friend, and fellow Canadiens prospect, Greg Pateryn, to offer up a helping hand whenever the going got tough.
“I was paired up again with Greg Pateryn this year. Earlier this season, Jon Merril, who’s also a big defensemen for us, went down so it was an opportunity for Greg and I to really step up,” explained Bennett, currently boasting an impressive plus-16 differential. “We took on a ton of ice time and were doing a bit of everything – sometimes playing 30 minutes a night.
“Before Jonny came back, I saw the situation as a huge wake up call to make sure that my game was at the right place,” he added. “Luckily it worked out.”
Bennett’s contributions to his team have helped the Wolverines cement a reputation as one of the CCHA’s finest, finishing their year second in the league’s overall standings. Michigan’s regular season success carried over into the playoffs where they set a new record among university ranks, earning their way into the NCAA tournament for a 22nd consecutive time.
With his sophomore year of university coming to a close, the 21-year-old defenseman is looking to keep his feet rooted firmly in the present for the time being. Despite the possibility of turning pro looming on the horizon, Bennett made it clear that there was still a lot to accomplish before making the jump to the next level.
“Everything has got to be better and I have to keep working. Defensemen tend to take a little more time to develop. I have time to step my game up over these next two years and then I’ll go from there,” stated Bennett, presently enrolled in the science and literature program at Ann Arbor.
“I’m taking this one year at a time. I don’t have any plan set in stone at this point,” he finished. “I’m going to see how each season goes and then make my decision.”
Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Justin Fragapane.
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