With the Michigan hockey team’s 2016-17 season in the books, the Daily looks back at the performance of each unit this year and looks ahead to the 2017-18 season.
Offense: (No. 5 Big Ten, No. 42 NCAA)
Entering the season, the main question surrounding the Michigan hockey team was how it would replace all the offensive firepower it had lost from the 2015-16 season. The Wolverines were returning only one of their top seven scorers — senior forward Alex Kile — and the rest of their offense was made up of largely unknown commodities.
Michigan never really found an answer to that question, either. Freshmen forwards Jake Slaker and Will Lockwood led the Wolverines in scoring with 21 and 20 points, respectively. But that mark wasn’t nearly good enough to fuel the offense to success, as they didn’t even break the top 30 in the Big Ten in points.
The returning Michigan players that were expected to contribute fell short, too. Junior forward Tony Calderone led the team with 15 goals, but Kile finished with just 14 points total, and though sophomore forward Cooper Marody showed flashes of brilliance, he missed the entire first half of the season due to academic ineligibility. He also finished with 14 points.
The one place where the Wolverines had success offensively was on the power play — they finished the year with the 17th-ranked unit nationally. But that wasn’t enough to salvage Michigan’s offense overall, as it struggled to maintain consistency in terms of putting the puck in its opponent’s net all season.
Defense: (No. 4 Big Ten, No. 44 NCAA)
With the offense in a rebuilding process from the start of the season, it seemed that the Wolverines would rely on their slightly more experienced defense and its highly-touted freshmen goaltenders to keep them in games.
But right from the beginning of the season, Michigan struggled with shot suppression, and it ended up giving up the eighth-most shots against in the country, putting a lot of pressure on its goaltenders.
At times, the netminders were up to the challenge. Freshman Hayden Lavigne earned a shutout in his first career win against Union and followed it up with a shutout win against then-No. 4 Boston University. Freshman Jack LaFontaine helped his team to a win against Ferris State with a stellar effort, too. Then, at the end of the season, senior Zach Nagelvoort finished with two shutouts of his own in his final four starts.
But it turned out that the trio’s flashes of brilliance were unsustainable for the entire season. They were ultimately unable to keep up with the enormous amounts of shots they faced on a night-to-night basis, accruing a 3.12 goals-against average.
The Wolverines struggled on the penalty kill, too, as that unit ended the year No. 37 in the nation.
Overall: (No. 5 Big Ten, No. 37 Pairwise)
Even with all the question marks coming into the season, Michigan entered the season ranked No. 11. But it was quickly evident that the Wolverines weren’t going to be able to live up to that ranking, and, other than goaltending, they didn’t answer any of their preseason questions.
After finishing fifth in the Big Ten standings and No. 37 in the country, Michigan still doesn’t know if it will be able to keep up offensively or defensively next season, and, in addition, it may have a coaching vacancy to fill this offseason, as rumors persist that coach Red Berenson may retire.
All in all, the 2016-17 season was a disappointment for the Wolverines, and it is unclear if things will be getting better for them soon.