The Michigan hockey team starts out the 2010-2011 fresh after a trip to the regional finals last year. Michigan for the first time in 13 years returns all their non-seniors. The forward trio of Carl Hagelin, Matt Rust, and Louie Caporusso look to defend their CCHA tournament championship and return to the Frozen Four for the first time since their freshman season. Michigan gains three defensive recruits this season which includes New Jersey Devils’ second-round pick Jon Merrill. They have depth at the position but the first couple weeks will tell if the talent can make up for the graduations of Chris Summer and Steve Kampfer. Senior walk-on Shawn Hunwick will start the season as the number one goaltender, however Bryan Hogan has a legitimate shot to regain it if Hunwick struggles.
This past weekend, Michigan played its first regular season game against Mercyhurst followed by an exhibition game with Western Ontario. Red Berenson was looking for his 700th career win but unfortunately he will have to wait another week at least. Michigan looked comfortable up 4-0 late in the second period and then proceeded to sit back and give up four unanswered goals. After a crazy five minutes of overtime, the Wolverines tied Mercyhurst 4-4. Captain Carl Hagelin was sent off for a fortuitous hit from behind early in the 2nd period before the Lakers comeback, but I believe if Hagelin plays the full sixty we would be talking about a win. Yes, it is a scare although it was only a tie and not a loss. Michigan played the next day against Western Ontario, winning 4-2.
Now for the player’s performances. Shawn Hunwick looked sharp in the first two periods, stopping several good chances by the Lakers. I wouldn’t fault Hunwick on the four goals in the third because they were either odd man situations or tick-tac-toe plays by Mercyhurst. The seniors on the team, Hagelin, Rust, Caporusso, and Langlais played well and to expectations although Langlais was at fault for not having his stick ready on one of the goals. Brandon Burlon definitely could have had better performance and Greg Pateryn played alright. It is important for these junior defensemen to give the Wolverines quality depth for a run at the NCAA tournament. Freshman Jon Merrill played a lot of minutes and looked very mature, picked up an assist, but had one “freshman” moment that contributed to one of Mercyhurst’s goals. Mac Bennett played on the 3rd pairing and displayed good stick skills and speed. He just needs to remember he can’t skate around opposing players like in juniors. Kevin Lynch and Chris Brown need to get more involved in the play but at the same time not create too many penalties against the team. Luke Moffatt played average for a freshman in his first collegiate game but did pick up a point against Western Ontario. I wasn’t impressed by the fourth line besides Scooter Vaughan scoring a goal and hitting a post in overtime. Michigan has the talent to put up 3 or 4 goals a game, but they need to stay focus for the whole game because momentum is killer for them. Coach Berenson is still switching up his lines with Hagelin and Rust playing together and the Caporusso, Wohlberg, and Glendening have good chemistry. Hopefully one player can be consistent with the first line, allow Caporusso to be on the second line, and have an effective checking with whoever is bounced out of the scoring lines. Even with the tie, Michigan has the talent to prove that their number 4 preseason ranking was correct.