Throughout his seven-year friendship with Will Lockwood, Alex Kile has noticed something.
“(Lockwood is) one of those kids who kept getting better as he got older,” the senior left wing said Wednesday. “It’s cool to see him develop into the player he is today.”
Now teammates on the Michigan hockey team, the two will have the chance to play together on the first line this weekend. Last Sunday, Lockwood began the game on the ice playing with Kile and freshman center Jake Slaker. On a team with many new faces, it is beneficial that two wings on the first line already have a connection. That means Kile and Lockwood's relationship could be crucial to the 11th-ranked Wolverines' success.
In the Wolverines’ preseason tune-up against Windsor, Lockwood sprinted all across the ice, zooming from one side to the other, chasing after the puck. While Lockwood could not net himself a goal, his speed was evident last weekend. In one instance, he skated the length of the ice, but his shot landed straight into the glove of the Lancer goaltender. On a another play, Lockwood found himself on a breakaway as he sprinted from Michigan’s face-off circle to Windsor’s goal, but again, Lancers’ goaltender Kris Joyce made an excellent save to prevent the goal.
“My skating is one of my best attributes,” Lockwood said. “It definitely helps to have my legs out on the ice. There’s also an aspect to it where you don’t want to overskate on the ice, (to skate) smart on the ice, but also use my speed in the right situation to my advantage.”
From a young age, Lockwood dedicated himself to increasing his speed on the ice. And it has showed because, after practicing with Kile for a month and playing with him last weekend, Lockwood reminds Kile of his former speedy linemates.
“I’ve always liked playing with fast players,” Kile said. “In the past, I played with Boo Nieves and Dylan Larkin and Will is right up there with their speed. I feel like you get in on the forward check and you can create havoc with a lot of speed.”
As a freshman, Lockwood is still learning the nuances of Michigan coach Red Berenson’s system. But to assist him, he has Kile and the other captains, who are eager to guide Lockwood and his fellow freshmen, four of whom played with Lockwood on the U-18 United States National Development team last year.
Unlike many of his classmates, though, Lockwood is no stranger to Yost Arena. Not only did he play there last year as a member of the USNTDP, he heard about his father Joe, who played four years in Ann Arbor as part of Berenson’s first four-year class. The elder Lockwood scored 36 goals in 147 games between 1984 and 1988.
Still, even for the son of a former Michigan player, playing in Yost for the first time as a member of the Wolverines did have special meaning.
“It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for a while,” Lockwood said. “We played at Yost against Michigan last year (with USNTDP). (Even so,) suiting up with the ‘Block M’ is definitely a dream come true for me.”