Key players noticeably absent during first 'M' exhibition

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Senior defenseman Lee Moffie was one of five starters who were scratched for Michigan's 7-3 exhibition win over Windsor. Buy this photo

By Michael Laurila, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 9, 2012

Six men clad in suits sat in an aisle of chairs along the third story balcony by the northeast corner of Yost Ice Arena Tuesday night.

Normally this wouldn’t be an anomaly, but considering the six men are current Michigan hockey players and five of them combined for 108 points last year, it was a little strange.

Most notable of the scratches were junior defenseman Mac Bennett and senior defenseman Lee Moffie. As captains, Bennett and Moffie are two of the vocal leaders for this experienced yet youth-laden Michigan team. They also make up a defensive pairing that is expected to be one of the best in the CCHA.

The choice to sit the six players stemmed from Michigan coach Red Berenson’s pre-game decision to let some of the freshmen and more inexperienced players see more ice time than they normally would.

Sophomore forward Zach Hyman, senior forward Kevin Lynch and redshirt sophomore Luke Dwyer also watched from afar.

“We’ve got a lot of depth on this team and I wanted to see all our freshmen in the lineup and all seven of them played tonight,” Berenson said. “You know Lynch, Guptill and Hyman and those five will be back in the lineup on Thursday.”

The decision also likely stemmed partly from Windsor’s 6-1 loss on Monday night to Michigan State.

But even against the lesser Lancers, the Wolverines got off to a slow start on Tuesday. But after trailing 1-0 after the first period, Michigan rallied for five goals in the second finishing the game with a 7-3 defeat of the Lancers.

There wasn’t a lack of leadership for the Wolverines on the ice, though. They have a plethora of upperclassmen that are more than capable to step into the game and control the tempo for some of the younger players.

“We’re a good group of guys,” said junior Luke Moffatt. “We all have the same character if the captains are around or if they’re not around. Obviously, we want those guys around us to help lead us during the game, but (senior forward) A.J. (Treais) took over and he led by example. Some of us older upperclassmen tried to step up too.”

Dwyer, who didn’t register any playing time last season, was the only goalie who didn’t see the ice on Tuesday. He is not expected to be part of the ongoing netminder debate for who will take over following the departure of Sean Hunwick. It seems likely the competition will be between freshmen Jared Rutledge and Steve Racine.

Along with giving the freshmen a chance to see plenty of ice time, the decision to sit the six players also allowed Berenson to play some skaters who have often been scratched from the starting lineup. Senior forward Jeff Rohrkemper, who played significant minutes Tuesday, appeared in just 13 of Michigan’s 41 games last season.

“We thought this was a chance to see, for example, (sophomore defenseman) Michael Szuma, and to (Tuesday), and guys that you’re not sure how much they’re going to play during the year.”