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Second time's a charm

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Greg Pateryn is no stranger to plying his trade outdoors.

Back in February 2010, while still a sophomore defenseman at the University of Michigan, Pateryn and the Wolverines made the 400 mile trek west to Madison, WI to battle the University of Wisconsin Badgers in the Camp Randall Hockey Classic at Camp Randall Stadium.

Greg Pateryn suited up for the University of Michigan at Camp Randall Stadium in February 2010.

Ranked No. 19 in the nation at the time, Red Berenson’s contingent broke a 1-1 tie at the 11:03 mark of the third period on a goal by forward Kevin Lynch, only to see the No. 3 Badgers offer up a remarkable comeback in front of 55,031 fans in attendance. It's something Pateryn will never forget.

“We were up by a goal with about five minutes left and we took a penalty. Then, [future Detroit Red Wings defenseman] Brendan Smith scored a power play goal to tie it up. I think the next shift, we took another penalty and he scored another power play goal on the exact same play he’d made before with just over a minute to go. After scoring, he did the Heisman Trophy pose,” recalled Pateryn, whose squad that season also featured the likes of current NHL regulars Carl Hagelin and Luke Glendening. “Even though it really upset me at the time, after the game, thinking about it, it was probably one of the cooler things I’ve seen over the years.”

While the loss 3-2 loss certainly stung, Pateryn has plenty of good memories from taking to the ice on that blistery Saturday five-and-a-half years ago.

“I remember just driving through Madison and people were kind of pre-gaming like it was a football game out in the cold. That was by far the coldest one that I played in. I remember just looking up at one point, before we went out there, and all you saw was Wisconsin red. The snow was just coming down. It was a really cool sight,” shared Pateryn, who finished his four-year playing career at Michigan with six goals and 43 points in 142 games. “Your adrenaline is definitely pumping when you’re out there. For a lot of us, it was our first outdoor game – for most of us, actually. It’s just something that you know you’ll remember forever. Everyone’s playing on another gear there. It’s something that I think everyone felt.”

It might have been particularly frigid that day, but that didn’t bother Pateryn at all. If anything, it kept the Sterling Heights, MI native going during the closely contested tilt, and afforded him the opportunity to learn a few new tricks about playing in adverse conditions.

“Our coaches kind of warned us what it was going to be like. Being cold out there, though, it felt like you could almost skate forever. You have a little more endurance because your body is kind of in shock a little bit. It’s just in survival mode to keep going. Honestly, I think the biggest challenge was getting everyone away from all the fireworks and all the planes flying over and everything, and focusing on it just being a hockey game and trying to get the two points,” offered Pateryn, who took away lessons aplenty from that game in Mad City.

“With the way the ice is, you’re not toe-dragging guys. You’re not making two-foot little passes, either. If the game isn’t simple enough for you already, you make it even simpler. If the puck is bouncing, it’s bouncing all the time. You just have to play within yourself and it’s honestly more a game of mistakes in those types of venues,” added Pateryn, who received his Bachelor’s degree in Movement Science upon graduation from Michigan in 2012. “If guys try to beat defenders and turn the puck over, it’s gone. I think it was just a matter of realizing that if you have a shot on net, you take it because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Beating Ohio State in the Frozen Diamond Faceoff meant a lot to Pateryn and the Wolverines.

Pateryn would have a chance to put those strategies into practice nearly two years later at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH as the Wolverines went up against the rival second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in enemy territory on January 15, 2012. Michigan skated to the locker room with a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes of play and never looked back, posting a 4-1 win with 25,831 fans looking on at the home of Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians.

“That was definitely a lot of fun. It was a lot different than playing in the football stadium where we came in the normal entrance that football players do. For this game, we came out of the visiting dugout, which was really cool. We actually walked through the whole thing and came out up the stairs and around. It was quite a walk,” recalled Pateryn, who led the Wolverines with three blocked shots that day, and also amassed two shots on goal. “Coming out, and any time you play Ohio State, it’s the one team you hate the most. It was my senior year and I remember we came out really hot. We just pounded them right away. We dominated that game from start to finish. I think you take a lot of pride in that, especially when you’re a senior. To beat a team like that, in that circumstance, on that stage, that was really a highlight for me.”

With that game still fresh in his mind, what is Pateryn expecting as the Canadiens get set to battle the archrival Boston Bruins on New Year’s Day at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough,MA?

“I think that’s going to be a whole other experience, especially at this level. College is one thing. But, I think being a part of it, especially at this elite level, I think that’s something that’s going to be even more memorable than those two experiences at Michigan,” concluded Pateryn, who made his NHL debut with the Canadiens back in 2012-13. “Dislike between two teams can be a factor whenever we play one another. I got a small taste of it in college with games against Michigan State and Ohio State, but this level is completely different. I’m really excited to see how that game unfolds. I’m looking forward to it.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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