Freshmen make up nearly half of the Michigan hockey team’s roster.
And in the Wolverines’ season opener, they’ll play last year’s NCAA runner-up, No. 2 Boston College, 11 hours from home.
But if you’re wondering if Michigan has a legitimate chance against the Eagles, you’ve asked the wrong question.
“This (weekend) isn’t about Boston College – it’s about Michigan,” Berenson said. “We’re not going there just for practice. We want to play well, and this will be a good measuring stick of where we are.”
As part of this weekend’s Ice Breaker Invitational at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the Wolverines will play the Eagles tonight and will face either No. 6 Minnesota or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) tomorrow evening.
Boston College returns both its leading scorer and top defenseman, but its weakness is sure to be between the pipes – none of the goalies on this year’s roster have game experience.
Michigan goalie Billy Sauer wasn’t seriously tested against Western Ontario in last Sunday’s exhibition matchup, but the Wolverines’ backup goalie situation is bleak. Highly touted freshman Bryan Hogan is out with mononucleosis, and freshman Shawn Hunwick missed last weekend’s games because of illness.
Junior forward and alternate captain Tim Miller said the key to succeeding this weekend will be pressuring the opponents’ offense and sustaining the gritty, aggressive play the Wolverines brought last weekend.
“(Boston College has) good, small guys, so we’re going to play physical against them and keep them off the puck as much as possible,” Miller said.
Added junior Mark Mitera, Michigan’s sole upperclass defenseman: “With a lot of young players, I think the most important thing (this weekend) is to play well without the puck.”
During practice this week, the Wolverines worked on backchecking drills and 5-on-5 play in zones, attempting to improve their physical presence and clarify defensive responsibilities for this weekend.
Berenson said team goals will begin to take shape after this weekend’s game, and there is no better team to beat than Boston College to elicit talk about the NCAA Tournament.
But after having just one week of coaches’ practices, Michigan will have to continue to learn quickly in order to perform well.
“We’re going to be in a hostile environment, and the games are going to be a lot faster,” Miller said. “It’s going to be a tough game. We’re going to try to limit our mistakes in the first game of the season.”