They’re sort of strange, sort of bizarre and, well, sort of cool.
That’s the best way to describe the circumstances colliding this weekend for the Michigan hockey team’s home opener against Boston University.
The Wolverines are off to a 3-1 start and are undefeated in the CCHA, but the two teams they’ve defeated have just three combined wins. And even with a roster nearly half full of freshmen, Michigan finds itself ranked third nationally, its highest ranking since 2005. Keep in mind, this team was picked to finish fourth in the conference by the coaches and media just one month ago.
“We shouldn’t be No. 3, and we shouldn’t get hung up on that because you know how long that’ll last,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.
A little harsh? Apparently not.
“We’re overrated,” senior Chad Kolarik said. “That’s ridiculous. Third overall?
“What are you going to do, though? It’s the second weekend of the season and we’ve been playing well, but we haven’t beaten anyone very good.”
Aside from the high ranking, the anticipation for the home opener seems stronger than years past for another reason: The Yost-faithful haven’t waited more than four games for the first regular-season home game since 2001.
It wasn’t like Michigan was playing around the corner, either. The Wolverines have traveled more than 2,000 miles so far this year.
“We’ve been so busy traveling, it’s been like a month since we’ve been home,” Berenson said.
It’s also been a while – 18 years – since the last, and only, time Boston University visited Yost. In two meetings, Michigan defeated the Terriers 4-3 and 6-2. If another sweep happens during Boston University’s second trip to Ann Arbor, it’ll be the first time in 31 seasons that the Terriers will open with a five-game winless streak.
But Wolverine fans are much more concerned about two highly touted freshmen struggling to score.
Max Pacioretty and Aaron Palushaj, Michigan’s two highest-drafted first-year players, have yet to knock in a goal this season. Pacioretty, a first-round draft pick, has yet to even tally a point. But both registered more than 60 points for their respective teams in the United States Hockey League last year, so Berenson isn’t worried.
“That’s a temporary thing,” said Berenson, who noted they both play on the No. 1 power-play unit. “I’m not worried about them. They’re both in good roles.”
And while it may be weird for fans not to know a lot of players on the ice tonight with the home debut of Berenson’s largest freshman class ever, one thing is certain – a loud crowd welcoming the 12 new Wolverines into Michigan hockey lore.