Five Things We Learned: Mercyhurst
The Michigan hockey team started its season with a bang, sweeping a two-game series against Mercyhurst this past weekend at Yost Ice Arena.
The Wolverines dominated shot totals in both games, but both scores were close until the final buzzer. In Friday’s game, Michigan had to come from behind three times to finally take the lead for good in a 6-4 victory. On Sunday, the Wolverines never trailed, but narrowly defeated the Lakers, 3-2.
Michigan will travel to upstate New York to face No. 18 Union on Friday and Rensselaer on Saturday. But until then, here are five things we learned this weekend.
1. Balanced scoring leads the way.
Last season, much of the scoring came from two players: Dylan Larkin and Zach Hyman. The high-scoring duo played on the same line and accounted for about 25 percent of the Wolverines’ points.
This past weekend, scoring came from all throughout the lineup, with all four lines contributing at least one goal.
While the top line of freshman forward Kyle Connor and senior forwards Boo Nieves and Justin Selman contributed the most, with four goals on the weekend, the other three lines were not forgotten.
The second line of junior forwards Alex Kile, JT Compher and Tyler Motte added two tallies. Third-line scoring came from freshman forward Cooper Marody and sophomore forward Tony Calderone, and junior forward Evan Allen scored on the fourth line.
2. The kids can play.
Coming into the season, many around the team believed several highly touted freshmen would make an impact on the program early on in their Michigan careers.
They were right, as four freshmen — Connor, Marody and defensemen Joseph Cecconi and Nicholas Boka — made their Wolverine debuts against Mercyhurst.
On the offensive side, Connor, who came in as one of the highest-rated recruits in the nation, didn’t disappoint. He scored three goals, each in different fashion. His first goal came shorthanded, while the next came on an empty net and the third at even strength.
Marody was able to jam home a loose puck off a rebound Friday for the first goal of his Michigan career.
Boka and Cecconi showed promise, with each playing one game on the second defensive unit, and the two handled pressure well during many of Mercyhurst’s odd-man rushes.
3. Question marks remain between the pipes.
If there was one big question mark for the Wolverines heading into the year, it was the goaltending.
Last season, Michigan coach Red Berenson switched between junior Zach Nagelvoort and senior Steve Racine. After two games, it appears nothing has changed, as both goaltenders started one game apiece.
While the duo earned wins in their respective season debuts, Berenson noted that neither was perfect, as Racine stopped 26 shots and let in four goals, while Nagelvoort stopped 19 and allowed two.
While it is still up for debate as to who will start next weekend, Berenson noted that both goaltenders would be given a fair shot, but if one goaltender got hot, it would become his job to lose.
4. Resiliency is key.
In Friday’s game, the Wolverines had to come back three different times before taking the lead for good.
Aside from the first Laker lead, Michigan was able to respond within one minute of falling behind.
In the second period, after Mercyhurst forward Jonathan Charbonneau put the Lakers up by a goal, Calderone responded 54 seconds later to knot the game at 2.
Four minutes later, Mercyhurst pulled ahead on the power play with a goal from defenseman Lester Lancaster. But once again, Michigan responded with a goal from Marody 55 seconds later to tie the game at 3.
5. Bold Prediction: Connor will lead the team in goals at the end of the season.
With his speed and shifty puck-handling, Connor has already shown off the skills that made him the reigning United States Hockey League Player of the Year.
Connor already leads the team in goals with three, and there may be no stopping the freshman. Playing next to two veterans in Nieves and Selman should only help Connor continue to grow and put more pucks in the back of the net.