- Paul Sherman/Daily
By Erin Lennon, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 8, 2013
For the No. 10 Michigan hockey team, Thursday night’s home opener against No. 4 Boston College just got even more daunting.
Coming off a losing season in which the Wolverines missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 23 years, the pressure will no doubt be on in Yost Ice Arena for Michigan’s first regular-season matchup. To make matters worse, this young team will skate without junior forward Alex Guptill, who will serve a team-sanctioned suspension, on Thursday before he returns to the lineup Saturday against Rochester Institute of Technology.
Last season, Guptill led the Wolverines in nearly every offensive category with 36 points, 16 goals, 144 shots and three game-wining goals. A third-round draft pick by the Dallas Stars in 2010, Guptill also finished second behind then-freshman forward Boo Nieves in assists and power-play goals.
After Guptill sat out the exhibition game Sunday, Michigan coach Red Berenson announced Tuesday that he would miss the home opener as a result of an undisclosed incident that occurred over the summer.
“It just happened to be a big game,” Berenson said. “This isn’t something I like, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s not something he likes either. It’s a big game, it’s a home game and it’s a tough game to win.”
Guptill stayed in Ann Arbor for an away series in December against Ferris State last season due to a similar incident. But for the time being, Berenson isn’t worried about a pattern of behavior.
“I’m seeing more (maturity) now,” Berenson said. “That’s good. So we’re making headway.”
Without Guptill on Sunday, Michigan managed 35 shots against 22 for Waterloo — a sign the offense is as strong as promised. But the Wolverines went 0-for-5 on power plays — one of Guptill’s specialties. The offense will have to convert on extra-man opportunities against the mighty Boston College defense to prevent playing from behind.
SWITCHING IT UP: Nine of Michigan’s 10 freshmen saw time on the ice in Sunday’s exhibition.
Despite a strong showing both offensively and defensively, Berenson favors familiar pairs on offense heading into the regular season. He expects to put Nieves back with junior Phil Di Guiseppe and partner freshmen JT Compher and Tyler Motte in an effort to increase power-play conversions.
“I just didn’t see enough of the lines that I think we can do better with so we just made a couple of changes,” Berenson said. “I’m interested to see how three of our lines jell. We have a lot of young players, and you’re looking for that young player to do what you need.”
On defense, Michigan’s penalty kill, which featured three freshmen, was near perfect against Waterloo. While freshmen Michael Downing and Kevin Lohan looked particularly strong, Berenson is uncertain as to which to lines will appear in front of Boston College’s trio of top scorers.
Berenson plans to keep the three freshmen defensemen on their respective lines Thursday.
AN EYE ON TROUBA: Former Michigan defenseman Jacob Trouba seems to have settled in nicely into his new home in Winnipeg, Man.
Trouba made his NHL debut for the Jets last Tuesday, contributing one goal and one assist.
In a single year at Michigan, Trouba netted 12 goals and 17 assists en route to a first team All-American selection. As a freshman, Trouba led all freshmen defensemen nationally, contributing six power play goals. The Rochester, Mich., native was named Michigan’s Hal Downs Most Valuable Player and first-team all-CCHA, while winning a gold medal with the U.S. National Junior Team at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Russia.
As former teammates, senior captain defenseman Mac Bennett and junior alternate captain forward Andrew Copp were watching on Tuesday.
“I played with him last year,” Bennett said. “He’s a very special player. You could see that last year. Obviously he’s ready for the next level, and he played like nothing’s changed.”
Added Copp: “Topping Mac, I played with Trouba for nine years. He’s a confident kid, and those situations don’t bug him at all.”