In his final season, team captain Carl Hagelin (NYR) has guided the Michigan Wolverines to their first Frozen Four since 2008. This is Hagelin’s second Frozen Four and he hopes that this time his team will walk away as National Champions. Hockey’s Future spoke with Hagelin after practice on Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.
Hockey’s Future: I know that this is your second Frozen Four, so how does it feel to be here again?
Carl Hagelin: It’s been a great four years here at Michigan and I’ve loved every second of it. We have so many great players here. It’s been different since my freshman year since we only had two seniors back then. I think this year we’re more of a team. I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to play with the seven or eight other seniors through everything. It’s been fun to get here this year. As seniors, our goal was to get back to where we started, which was being here at the Frozen Four again. But we’re not satisfied because we want to keep going and win the National Championship on Saturday.
HF: Aside from the obvious, what are some of the similarities and differences between this year’s Frozen Four team and the one that played in the Frozen Four in 2008?
CH: I think anytime you can make it to the Frozen Four, it means that you have a good goalie. I think that’s the bottom line. Our goalie Shawn Hunwick has been playing great for us this year and he was great in his freshman year in 2008 too. We also have a group of good seniors too. We all realize that we will never have this chance again, so we have to do our best right now. Another thing I think is important is playing strong defensively. If you do that, you always have a chance to win.
HF: So as far as you seniors are concerned, it’s all about attending to some unfinished business.
CH: Exactly. We got a bad taste in our mouths after that overtime loss to Notre Dame in 2008, so right now we’re just focusing on trying to beat North Dakota. They’re a good team and if we don’t play a great game, we’re not going to win.
HF: Looking back at your four years, what have been some of the greatest things that you have learned from Coach Berenson as well as from the experience of being at the University of Michigan?
CH: I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to play with many great players here at Michigan. Every day in practice, you’re playing against guys that work hard and have coaches that want you to improve in all areas. I’m so fortunate to have Coach Berenson coaching me because he knows so much about life and hockey. He’s taught me so much not only on the ice, but off the ice too. He’s taught me a lot of life lessons. I would say what I’ve learned as a player is learning how to play in all situations such as the penalty kill. When I first came to Michigan I didn’t even kill penalties. In my junior year, I was not only killing penalties but also seeing time on the power play and that’s when my points went up. This year has been the same. I’ve been able to play on one of our top two lines at all times. I’ve also been able to play against other team’s top players too and that’s really helped me improve my game a lot. You have to work so much harder with each shift because you don’t want to be the guy that brings down the team.
As far as being at Michigan, I would say that the greatest experience is just all of the friends that I’ve made both on and off the ice, whether they’re hockey players, other student-athletes or just other students as well as being able to get a degree from such a respected university. I’ve been very fortunate to have been around the right people who have guided me the right way.
HF: Have you been in touch with the Rangers organization at all this season?
CH: Not really, but we’ll see what happens when the season is over. I’ve always said that when I’m at Michigan, I play for Michigan and it doesn’t matter what other people think. Hopefully we’ll win the National Championship on Saturday and I can celebrate with my teammates. After that, we’ll see what happens.
HF: Are you planning to be at any of the Rangers’ camps this coming summer?
CH: Yes, but I’m not really thinking about that right now.
HF: Finally, what kind of advice would you give to a fellow Swede that might be considering taking the US collegiate route to further his hockey development?
CH: I would tell them that if they’re not absolutely sure that they will make it onto one of the top three lines in the SEL (Swedish Elite League), they should consider taking a chance on taking the US college route. Of course not everyone is set up for school either. College provides not only great hockey but also a great education as well. You learn so much on a personal level because you have so many great people around you that can guide you in the right direction. If hockey doesn’t work out, then you know that you’ll have a degree to fall back on.