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RPI Freshman Adds Talent on Blue Line

By Ed Weaver

Troy Record, October 10, 2008

TROY - It's been a while since a freshman defenseman has caused the excitement among Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute fans as has Mike Bergin.

The big (6-foot-3, 205-pound), two-way defenseman has drawn extended conversation among the Engineers' faithful ever since he committed to Rensselaer 10 months ago.

The Ottawa native said he wasn't aware of that fact.

"No, I really haven't heard much about that," he said.

Regardless, Bergin doesn't lack confidence and - with the Engineers' season opener against Vermont just two days away - he knows what his role is with the team.

"I bring a little offense and mobility to the blue line," Bergin said. "I think they recruited me because of my offensive ability and because of the way I skate and see the ice, so if I can help them out on the power play, that's what I'm going to do."

He says he's ready.

"Well, I wouldn't say take over (the PP)," he said. "I have a lot to learn and it's been a transition so far from juniors to college. It's going slow right now but I'm willing to put in the extra hours and do whatever it takes to evolve into a good college player. So, I'm looking up to the upperclassmen on defense."

"Guys such as (Peter) Merth, (Bryan) Brutlag have been helping me out, so if I can jump in there and learn from them I think I can help the power play for sure."

During Brutlag's freshman year last season, he was counted on early to help run the power play but wasn't comfortable with that role at the outset. When he was, the RPI power play and well established its season-long futility and players on both units - forwards and defensemen - were not in the normal good frame of mind when a referee would raise his arm to penalize an opposing player.

Bergin said, that while he's still adjusting, the Red-White (Scrimmage) game "helped me out a lot and I think every game I play I'll just become more confident on the power play, and in every situation."

While Bergin is unaware of the impatience the RPI faithful have to see him play, he's quite conscious of RPI's well-documented power play anemia (12 of 170 for a paltry 7.1 percent).

"Oh, yeah," he said, "but the coaches understand that and they're doing whatever's (necessary) to improve it, putting in extra time, pulling (each of) us aside and showing us what we're doing wrong and what we should be doing. So, they're definitely getting on that."

Bergin, a 7th-round draft choice of the National Hockey League's Dallas Stars, is often said to be not physical enough, but that's likely because he's such a standout offensive threat. After all, he logged 79 minutes in penalties in the Central Junior Hockey League last season while scoring 48 points (16-32-48) in 60 games.

"I like to think I'm a physical player," he said. "I can take the body."

And those penalty minutes?

"Ah, pretty high, I guess," he said. "I don't know, it's just that I'm an intense guy when it comes to games and I just play with my heart. I don't take a lot of stick penalties or anything like that, it's just maybe I get too intense. But nothing too crazy, though."

Rensselaer head coach Seth Appert has referred to Bergin as "a multiple threat" and stated that "Mike should be one of the best freshman defensemen in the country."

"In his first five weeks (preseason), he's already shown a lot of offensive abilities, a lot of talent," Appert said. "He's a kid we expect to run one of our power plays. Now, he's a freshman, and as a defenseman, he's kind of feeling his way around back there ... and he's just given us a little bit of a glimpse of how assertive and offensive-minded he can be in the future."

Back to those high expectations from RPI fans. Though he was not aware of it, Bergin says, he views it as a motivation.

"I'm not too worried about it," he said with a grin. "I'm anxious to show them what I can do."

The large media corps the Engineers draw was a surprise to Bergin.

"I'm pretty excited about it, though" he said. "I've never played at a level. Back in juniors, one newspaper covered us but it's pretty exciting, the media coverage we get here. I'm excited to get the season going."