In October 2018, Johnny Beecher took the ice at Yost Ice Arena for the first time.
But the now-freshman forward wasn’t wearing the block ‘M’ and representing Michigan. He was wearing red, white and blue for the visiting team, the U18 team from the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP).
The Wolverines hosted the NTDP in an exhibition matchup, and Beecher got his first taste of playing at what would become his home rink in a year — and his first taste of a win at Yost, as the NTDP beat Michigan, 6-3.
“It was awesome,” Beecher said Thursday. “I was fortunate enough to get in the starting lineup, and when they called my name, the student section was cheering and everything. It was everything I could’ve ever dreamed of. It was a great crowd, and we actually came away with a win, so the guys were really pumped up about that.”
This Saturday, two more Michigan commits will have that same experience. Forward Thomas Bordeleau and defenseman Jacob Truscott will both join the Wolverines in the fall, and they’ll get their first experience playing at Yost in this year’s exhibition.
“Both good players, both good kids,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “I know they’re gonna want to do well and show the Michigan faithful why they’re coming here and why they have the opportunity to come here. They’re good players, so I’m anxious to see them both play.”
Added Beecher: “They’re a great team. I came from the program the last two years, so I know that they’re gonna be really excited about it, and it’ll be a great atmosphere.”
For Michigan, Saturday’s exhibition has the makings of a classic trap game, albeit a slightly non-traditional one. It’s a meaningless matchup, sandwiched in the heart of the Wolverines’ conference schedule. Michigan has started to build momentum in recent weeks, and now, they’re faced with a game that could be a serious stumbling block to that momentum.
“There’s no implications as far as either your Big Ten points or NCAA, so it’s why are you playing?” Pearson said. “What’s the purpose? I think that’s the thing that we’ve tried to convey to our guys. We have to get better. It’s a week we can take advantage of. We put it on the schedule at this time so we would have a game and not just have an open weekend.”
The Wolverines’ recent run came after a disappointing first half, in which the Michigan went 7-11-2 overall and just 2-7-1 in the Big Ten. And despite the success the last two weeks, Pearson knows his team still has a lot to improve upon.
In Saturday’s exhibition, he’s looking for the Wolverines to continue to build and grow into a team that can be competitive across the Big Ten.
“We’ve only played six games since we’ve been back from the long break we had,” Pearson said. “We have some new line combinations we want to work out, the power play needs work.”
With No. 6 Ohio State — a team that swept Michigan in the first half of the year — coming to town next weekend, the Wolverines are looking to build on their momentum on Saturday against the NTDP and keep things rolling into the series against the Buckeyes.
“I think with all the momentum we have going right now, we don’t want to lose it,” Beecher said. “Unfortunately, we can’t continue in Big Ten play this weekend, but it is what it is. It’ll be a good test for us, and we’ll be able to work on the stuff that we need to get better at.”