Notebook: Lockwood and Meike out against Minnesota
The Michigan hockey team has yet to play a game with its full roster at its disposal.
For the entire fall semester, sophomore forward Cooper Marody was academically ineligible, leaving the Wolverines without one of their best returning players. When Marody finally returned at the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 29, sophomore defenseman Joseph Cecconi departed for Canada to play in the World Junior Championships.
This weekend, when Michigan travels to face No. 9 Minnesota, it will again be left shorthanded.
This time, though, a new batch of injuries are plaguing the Wolverines. Freshman forward Will Lockwood re-aggravated a shoulder injury in Michigan’s game against Michigan State at the GLI and has not practiced since.
Lockwood is currently leading the team in points this season, and is perhaps the Wolverines’ most dangerous offensive threat. And given that the Golden Gophers’ home rink is Olympic-sized — 15 feet wider than the typical NHL-sized rink — Michigan will miss Lockwood’s speed and quickness even more than it usually would.
“He’s one of our best players, so definitely we’re going to miss him,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Now Cooper (Marody) is back, and we’ve got to get him going and get that line going, but, yeah, we’ve got to get Will Lockwood back. And the sooner, the better.”
In addition to Lockwood, Michigan will also be without freshman defenseman Christian Meike, who injured his knee prior to the GLI. While Meike hasn’t played nearly as large of a role as Lockwood — only appearing in three games this season — his absence certainly won’t help.
Michigan does get some good news in terms of personnel. Cecconi will make his return to the Wolverines after winning the World Junior Championship with the United States team.
While Cecconi is only in his sophomore season, he has proven to be one of the most consistent players on the team. And with him gone, Michigan was forced to play freshmen defensemen Griffin Luce and Luke Martin. Though the two have played often for the Wolverines this season, bringing Cecconi back will be a welcome sight, because of his consistency.
“He’s one of our steadiest defenseman,” Berenson said. “I’d say he’s a solid, defensive defenseman. He stays at home, blocks shots, kills penalties, he’s got a smart stick, he’s hard to play against and he’s just one of those elements that you can’t just replace him with another player.
“He’s only a sophomore, but he’s taken big strides in his freshman year and then into his sophomore year. So he’s a key guy. (Associate Head Coach) Billy Powers runs the defense, and he really trusts Joseph to do the right thing at the right time, and he puts him in key situations.”
Cecconi isn’t necessarily a big offensive producer for Michigan, but with him back the defense will be getting an upgrade, along with a bit of depth, which is especially pertinent with the loss of Meike.
Goaltending battle gets interesting again
When Michigan traveled to Penn State earlier this season, it did so without freshman goaltender Hayden Lavigne, who was sidelined with an illness. At that time, Lavigne was ranked first nationally in goals-against average, and had begun solidifying himself as the best goaltender on the Wolverines’ roster.
Since then, Lavigne has returned. And in that time, he hasn’t been quite as stout as he was before the illness. In his first game back, he was shelled by Wisconsin, allowing six goals in just two periods. He then gave up two goals to Michigan Tech in the semifinals of the GLI before being replaced by senior Zach Nagelvoort the next game against the Spartans.
“I’d hate to say anyone’s in the lead,” Berenson said of the goaltending competition. “I think we still have confidence in all three of them. I think any one of them can go out and win us a game. I don’t know if anyone has been as consistent as we’d like, but they’ve all shown that they can help our team.”
While goaltenders haven’t been the issue this season for Michigan, it will be interesting to see if Berenson and his staff choose to stick with Lavigne in the future.
Sanchez gets first-line opportunity again
When the Wolverines took on Michigan State in their second game of the GLI, they were coming off of a shutout loss. As a result, Michigan’s lines were changed somewhat drastically.
One of the beneficiaries of that shift was freshman forward James Sanchez. Prior to the game against the Spartans, Sanchez had spent most of the year playing on the third and fourth lines for the Wolverines. But the changes yielded success, as Michigan tallied five goals with the first line of Sanchez, Marody and senior forward Alex Kile being responsible for two of them.
Sanchez finished the game with only one assist, but the overall offensive success was enough for Berenson to give him another chance. He says that Sanchez will once again be playing with Marody and Kile against Minnesota.
“I think he’s got the offensive instincts,” Berenson said. “Hockey’s a game of, it’s not X’s and O’s, it’s a game of anticipating. It’s like they used to say about Gretzky. ‘He knows what you’re going to do with puck before you know.’ He would go there and he would get there before the puck got there, and then he would get it.
“I think James, he’s not Gretzky, but James has an awareness. Like he anticipates well, and then he has decent hands with puck. He can make a good play, he can play with good players, and I think he’s going to become a good player.”