The Michigan hockey team took the opportunity Friday to introduce a few new Wolverines to the ice for the first time during a rare off-weekend.
Eight players from the Michigan club hockey team dressed for the Wolverines and skated in a scrimmage meant to break up the doldrums of day-to-day practice. Michigan opened the season with an exhibition against the University of Toronto on Oct. 4, but will not play another game until Friday.
With just 25 players, this year’s team carries a light roster for a Division I hockey program, so there was speculation that Michigan coach Red Berenson might try to add another player as a safeguard.
“I can’t tell you we’re looking for players,” Berenson said. “If we ever had a rash of injuries, I think there would be a couple of them who would be able to play. They would be good depth players. They held up well, and I was glad we got to have a look at them.”
Berenson said that the Wolverines have only added a club player a few as a result of injury — once a goalie, another time a defenseman.
The players who suited up from the club team were Matt Schymick, Blake Smith, Ben Manksy, Jack Blumberg, Jonathan Katz, Lorenzo Bongiovanni, Alex Shell and Kyle Slovis. A few of the players held their own on both ends of the ice. Mansky, a sophomore forward, looked particularly impressive, battling well in the corners and finding the net to beat senior goaltender Steve Racine.
Michigan’s players also looked strong despite a lopsided victory for the white team. The defense continues to look more comfortable and quicker last year’s unit. There was also some development on offense, where freshman forward Brendan Warren displayed an uncanny ability to find the puck with space around the net.
Warren, who was selected 81st overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2015 NHL Draft, looked good in the season-opening exhibition against University of Toronto, but has settled in with his line over the past week.
“The younger line with (freshman forward Cooper Marody) and Brendan Warren and (sophomore forward) Tony Calderone — I think they are going to be a good third line, maybe even better than third line,” Berenson said. “I really like Brendan. He’s not only a good skater, he’s strong. You go into the corner with him and he’s going do everything he can to win that battle. He plays with an edge and he’s good with the puck and he’s got a nose for the net.”
The club players put in strong efforts as well, winning a few loose pucks and congratulating each other after a shot or defensive stop. Parents and friends of the players sat in the stands, cheering when they took the ice.
Bongiovanni is a local-area player who faced off against Wolverine Zach Werenski, a sophomore defender, and Kyle Conner, a freshman forward, in spring leagues. He said playing with that pair Friday brought the experience full circle.
“You get to see how they go through their routines and that’s pretty cool,” Bongiovanni said. “It would be great to see club hockey players get to do that again in the future to keep the connection up.”
The light-hearted scrimmage was fun for everyone involved, but the casual atmosphere will disappear this weekend. When the Wolverines takes the ice for their first regular-season game Friday against Mercyhurst, Yost Ice Arena figures to be quite a bit louder, and the margin for error slimmer.