This past Monday Michigan picked up another 2013 commitment when Detroit Catholic Central defenseman Michael Downing tweeted “Officially a wolverine.” The 6’3, 175 pound blue liner was being recruited by several top programs in the CCHA and WCHA and saw his recruitment with the Wolverines take off after a strong showing at the USA Hockey Select 16 Festival in June.
“I got a call from my advisor saying Michigan wanted me to visit the week before the actual visit,” Downing said. “When I arrived I met with coach Red (Berenson) and coach (Brian) Wiseman. We toured the locker room and rink. From there we stepped into coach Red’s office.
“We talked mostly about what kind of player I was and I told him I was a very offensive defensemen but at the same time I knew how important it was to keep the puck out of our net. We also talked about Michigan itself and how great of a school it is.”
It was after their talk that coach Berenson extended an offer to Michael, and it didn’t take him long to decide where he wanted to spend his college career. Two days later he accepted it.
“What made me decide to pull the trigger and commit is because I am a Michigan guy,” he said. “I have always loved the Wolverines more than any other college. Also, I live just a few minutes from Ann Arbor so I wanted to commit to somewhere close so I could have my parents see me play college hockey.”
Before stepping foot at Yost Ice Arena, Downing will start honing his skills in the USHL this season with defending league champion the Dubuque Fighting Saints, who picked him third overall in the USHL Futures Draft. Michael says he’s looking forward to having a solid rookie season against the tougher competition, but there’s something else he’s also looking forward to—getting to play with his older brother Jake. Dubuque traded for the older Downing back in May, and this will be the first time the brothers will play together in organized hockey.
“Playing with my brother has always been our dream and we knew if we worked hard one day it would happen,” Michael said. “He will be a veteran, so when I need help he can show me what to do. He knows the league and he knows what it’s like to be away from home. He also shows me the proper work ethic to be good in the league. We have worked out many times together and the first few times were rough but I’m finally catching up to him. I’m excited. It should be a real fun season.”
And Michigan fans, fear not. In light of the 11th hour switch by goalie John Gibson to shun the Wolverines in favor of the Ontario Hockey League (among others who have also flipped in recent years), Downing, who was an 8th round pick of the Sarnia Sting, wants to assure the Wolverine faithful he will not do the same.
“The OHL is not a route for me at all,” he said. “I will be attending Michigan 110% sure. I come from a family of our word and when we say something it happens.”
U-M fans wanting to catch Michael in action this season, you can check out Dubuque’s schedule here. Your first chance locally will be October 21 when Dubuque plays Team USA at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube (Michigan will be playing at Northern Michigan that weekend), and again against Team USA at the Cube on January 28 (bye week for the Wolverines).
EDIT: Correction, your first chance to see Michael play locally will be August 9-13 at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube. He will be playing for Team USA at the Five Nations Tournament. Ticket and schedule information can be found here.