Two weeks ago, the No. 18 Michigan hockey team kicked off its schedule away from home on the East Coast, where it recorded losses to Vermont and Dartmouth. Last week, the Wolverines completely switched gears on the opposite end of the country, tallying a win against Arizona State, 4-1.
With a 4-3-1 record in tow, the Wolverines will return home this weekend to battle No. 4 Boston University in a pair of home games Friday and Saturday for their second Autism Awareness series in program history.
The Terriers boast a 4-2-1 record for the season so far, almost identical to Michigan, save for a single loss. However, Boston University possesses one of the strongest defensive and offensive rosters in the nation with four first-round NHL Entry Draft picks.
“Their defense, they don’t give you much,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Their goalie, I think he had three shutouts in a row, a kid named Oettinger. We recruited him and he went to Boston. And he’s gotten better, he’s off to a good start, he’s a freshman goalie from the program. (Freshman forward Will Lockwood) played with him last year. So, their defense is a challenge.
“Their defense will be good, and their offense, they’ve got two top lines that can score. They’re way ahead of us in scoring. And those guys are leading the way, so we’ve really got to be aware of their good players.”
One of those players is freshman forward Clayton Keller, who was just named Hockey East Rookie of the Week. He leads the Terriers in scoring with five goals and is second in points with nine. He falls behind only freshman forward Patrick Harper, who has tallied 11 points so far this season.
In goal, Boston is likely to start Jake Oettinger in front of the net. So far this season, he’s played in all seven of the Terriers’ games, and he has a save percentage of .941.
But even with two top scoring lines saddled with players like Keller and Harper, and a defense led by Oettinger, Boston will still face a challenge against the Wolverines.
Lockwood, who played with Oettinger in the United States National Team Development Program, is leading Michigan in goals and points with five and eight, respectively. This number also ties him at third for rookies in NCAA Division I hockey and puts him in a good matchup against Keller.
Freshman forwards Sam Piazza and Jake Slaker have both scored the second-highest number of goals for the Wolverines with three each, while Piazza is also following Lockwood in points with seven.
Defensively, Michigan still has some work to do and has yet to solidify a goaltender. Senior Zach Nagelvoort most recently worked the net — for the second time this season — in the Wolverines’ 4-1 win over Arizona. He, along with freshmen Jack LaFontaine and Hayden Lavigne, have all had solid performances in front of the net, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see any of the three potential candidates at goaltender this weekend.
Overall, the Wolverines will have a tough weekend ahead. Boston’s heavy roster and highlighted players will pose a serious threat to Michigan, despite Lockwood’s presence on the ice and the Wolverines’ depth in the goaltender position. The Terriers have had success in suppressing their opponent’s offense and capitalizing on opportunities, averaging 3.9 goals per game and limiting their opponents to only 1.7.
It’ll be an uphill battle for Michigan. Despite the challenge Boston poses, though, the Wolverines will be fueled by the opportunity to beat a team ranked as highly as the Terriers.
“We’re working on things to be better,” said Berenson. “We don’t just work on the opponent, we’re working on us. We’ve got to be better at whatever it is. I think we’re building our game, but we know the game that we’re going to need when we play them. Tomorrow we’ll put it all together.”