Through one game and two exhibitions this season, the No. 11 Michigan hockey team (0-1) has been enigmatic. The expectations are high coming off a Frozen Four appearance last spring. However, the Wolverines dropped two of their first three games and have been outscored, 12-15.
The team welcomes 10 freshmen and returns 17 letter winners. Where the newcomers will fit in with the returning skaters and how they will fill the void left by the departed skaters remains to be seen.
The high-scoring top line of Dexter Dancs, Cooper Marody and Tony Calderone is no more. The trio combined for 122 of the team’s 363 points last season –– over one-third of Michigan’s offensive production. Now, the Wolverines will have to search for a new source of fuel for scoring the puck in the 2018-2019 season.
In what has been a disappointing start by Michigan hockey standards, the team is searching for consistency on the roster. The return of several key players such as sophomore Quinn Hughes, senior Joseph Cecconi and junior Will Lockwood figure to uphold the framework of a powerhouse that the team reestablished in the second half of last season. The early struggles thus far are shaking the foundations of the powerhouse. However, the potential on the roster cannot be overlooked as the Wolverines begin their quest for another deep tournament run.
The Daily breaks down the 2018-2019 roster.
Hayden Lavigne is likely to get the nod as the starter given his status as the only non-freshman goaltender on the roster. The junior recorded a .908 save percentage last season with a record of 18-11. However, in his two starts this season he has struggled, allowing at least five goals in each contest. In his second start, against the U.S. National Team Development Program, he was pulled in the second period in favor of freshman Straus Mann.
Mann looked solid in relief of Lavigne, allowing one goal in the subsequent 38 minutes of the contest. His first and only start against Waterloo got off to a rough start after allowing a goal on a bouncing puck from center ice. Since that moment, however, he has shown flashes of brilliance in the crease. The two will likely split time in the crease with Lavigne getting the edge based on prior experience and his performances in last season’s games.
Freshman Jack Leavy has not yet made his debut but is an imposing figure in the net with a 6-foot-5 frame. It is unclear how much playing time he will receive, but at the very least, he adds depth to the roster as the third goaltender.
Last season’s top defensive pairing of Hughes and Cecconi is returning for this season. Both had the option of making the move to the NHL but chose to remain in Ann Arbor for another go-around. Hughes led the blueliners in points last season with 29 –– edging out Cecconi by two points.
The defense is returning four other skaters in addition to Hughes and Cecconi. Juniors Luke Martin, Griffin Luce, Christian Meike, and senior Nicholas Boka add a level of continuity to the Wolverines’ defense.
The loss of Cutler Martin and Sam Piazza to graduation is met by the arrival of freshmen Jack Summers, Jake Gingell and Nick Blankenburg. All three have received ice time thus far, but only Blankenburg played in the team’s one regular season game.
Through three games this season, the defense has allowed at least four goals in each contest.
The dissolution of the “DMC” line may be the biggest void for Michigan to fill.
The Wolverines’ 10 returning forwards will tackle the challenge. Thus far, sophomore Jack Becker is pacing the team with four goals through three games and figures to be a major contributor on offense.
Junior Jake Slaker and Lockwood have also found the back of the net early this season. The former has improved on his point total in each of his first two seasons. Slaker and Lockwood ranked one and two, respectively, in points during the 2016-2017 season as freshmen. Lockwood had his 2017-2018 campaign cut short due to injury but is back on the ice, while Slaker finished third in goals with 15 and tied for fifth in points with 27. They will need to shoulder the load offensively in order for the Wolverines to replicate last season’s success.
After an impressive freshman season in which he notched 16 points in 29 games, junior Adam Winborg has struggled to stay on the ice consistently. If he finds his way back on the ice with consistency, he may be a factor in the offensive zone once again.
Sophomore Josh Norris made an impact on the ice last season as a freshman, recording eight goals and 15 assists. He has found the net once in each of the two exhibition matches and has been featured on the top line alongside Lockwood and sophomore Michael Pastujov.
Senior Brendan Warren brings stability and experience as the lone senior forward and one of two seniors on the roster. In 115 career games, he has recorded 17 points and 25 assists.
Freshmen Garrett Van Wyhe, Jimmy Lambert, Nolan Moyle and Jack Randl all made their regular season debuts against Vermont while Jack Olmstead has only played in exhibition matches. Van Wyhe and Lambert were players to watch out for coming into the season according to Michigan coach Mel Pearson. Van Wyhe combines speed and strength in the center position with his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame. Pearson says Lambert is a quick skater who “people will recognize and notice on the ice because of his skill level.”