The Michigan hockey team still has one No. 1 ranking under its
belt — thanks to the CCHA preseason polls — and it is
looking to hold on to it a little longer than it did its USCHO
ranking. Tonight’s game at Lake Superior State will open
conference play and will give the Wolverines another crack at life
away from Yost.

Ice Hockey
Junior Andrew Ebbett handles the puck. (RYAN WEINER/Daily)

Last season, Michigan struggled through the road portion of the
schedule, failing to secure a win in any of its last four CCHA away
games. The team narrowly clinched the CCHA regular season title
before losing in the post-season tournament.

“This team has to play better on the road than it did last
year,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.

Despite needing to build off of last season’s struggles,
Berenson was quick to point to the present issues facing his hockey
club.

“We can’t worry about what happened last
year,” Berenson said. “Our emphasis is on how we are
playing.”

Along with last year’s road woes, Michigan has struggled
this season to play solid hockey for an entire game. Even in the
team’s two wins, soft goals and turnovers were a prevalent
problem.

Junior Andrew Ebbet noted that the team hadn’t played up
to its potential for a full 60 minutes before Saturday.

“I think that was the push we needed,” Ebbet
said.

Easing into the schedule is not an option for Michigan. The
Lakers are 0-2, but both of their losses were one-goal defeats away
from home. With Michigan State not making the trip to Sault Ste.
Marie, tonight’s matchup could prove to be the biggest home
game of the season for Lake Superior.

“Lake Superior will be a hard working, close checking,
physical team,” Berenson said. “They are not going to
be pushed off the puck.”

Michigan does have some things going for it. The Wolverines are
6-0 against the Lakers in the last three seasons, meaning that not
one member on the Michigan roster has lost a game to Lake
Superior.

“The nonconference games are really important,”
Berenson said. “But they don’t show up right now
— they show up in your win-loss record at the end of the
season. This is when the standings start.”

Nystrom at center: Senior captain Eric Nystrom looked close to
100-percent during his first two games of the season. After sitting
out the Lefty McFadden Tournament and most of the captain’s
practices with a rib injury, Nystrom returned to the
Wolverines’ lineup on Friday.

Along with getting himself back into action, Nystrom was also
adapting to a new position. A winger all his career, Nystrom has
become the center between senior Jason Ryznar and sophomore Mike
Brown.

“It was good to get back out there,” Nystrom said on
Friday. “It will take a few games to get back into game
shape.”

Nystrom’s ice time didn’t indicate that Berenson was
holding him back. The feisty forward played significant time on
special teams and scored two goals on the weekend.

“You don’t really feel it — you just go out
there and throw the body around,” Nystrom said.
“Anything to get the team going.”

Another drop: Michigan fell to No. 4 in the USCHO rankings after
Friday’s 4-4 tie with New Hampshire. The Wolverines were
ranked No. 1 to open the season, but weak showings on back-to-back
Fridays dropped the Wolverines down three spots.

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