After its sweep of in-state rival Michigan State, the No. 6 Michigan hockey team regained its spot as the nation’s best offense.
The Wolverines are currently averaging 4.68 goals — a number that grew after this past weekend, when they scored 15 goals in two contests against the Spartans.
Now, a week later, the next team to try and stymie Michigan’s electrifying offense is Ohio State. Struggling out of the gate, the Buckeyes started the season winning just four of their first 15 contests. But recently, the Buckeyes have looked like a different team.
Over Winter Break, Ohio State traveled to Florida and beat then-No. 4 Boston College, 3-2, before crushing then-No. 8 Cornell, 8-0, to win the Florida College Classic title.
“Ohio State had a big couple wins down in Florida, and they’re hot right now, so we’re not taking them lightly,” said sophomore forward Dexter Dancs. “That’s for sure.”
But the Wolverines are also currently playing what seems like their best hockey at this point. They have scored 22 goals in their last four games, conceding just nine.
Their offense has caught fire lately for multiple reasons — mainly due to the first line of junior forwards Tyler Motte and JT Compher and freshman forward Kyle Connor.
The trio has been unstoppable since it started playing on the same line, and Big Ten statistics support this. Connor, Compher and Motte are first, second and third, respectively, in the Big Ten point-scoring race. Connor has been particularly sensational, notching 15 points in his last six games. His 31 points on the season are good for fourth in the country.
Despite the star trio, it has been the play of the fourth line — sophomore forward Dexter Dancs and junior forward Max Shuart — that has helped carry some of the load lately. Dancs notched two tallies against the Spartans, and said most of his and the team’s success stems from their tight bond.
“We’re having a ton of fun,” he said. “The team is extremely tight, the boys love coming to the rink and it’s the best part of the day for us. Right now, everything is just fun, even the lifts.”
Michigan has also seen a jolt from sophomore defenseman Zach Werenski, who played last weekend in his first series since captaining the United States World Junior team in the World Junior Championships in Helsinki.
Werenski registered two goals and an assist against the Spartans. After one of his goals, he paid his dues to former Wolverine Carl Hagelin, celebrating the goal by playing the violin on his arm with his stick.
Dancs said Werenski can get by with celebrating goals like that because he is just that skilled. Werenski said he still got a message from coach Red Berenson about going overboard with celebrations.
It wouldn’t be surprising if this Friday’s game in Columbus is high-scoring. After all, the first time the two teams met in Columbus last season, Michigan won a wild 10-6 contest, and its offense is just as good as last year. It’s no longer surprising if the Wolverines score five-plus goals a night.
“I think something pretty similar to (Michigan) State,” Werenski said about his expectations of the upcoming series. “I’d guess the games would be a little bit closer. They are a good team, block a lot of shots and it will be a battle.
“I hope we score 10 and they score none.”