Michigan will host Alaska at Yost Ice Arena — the last time the two schools will meet for the foreseeable future — this weekend for a two-game set.
The Nanooks, who currently sit in a tie with the Wolverines for seventh place in the CCHA, haven’t played since Dec. 8 — 34 days prior to tonight’s series opener.
With Michigan razor thin on its blue line due to a pair of injuries during Tuesday night’s loss to Bowling Green, coach Red Berenson will need to get creative. But when the team has given up more goals in conference play than any other league team, creativity isn’t exactly what you want to see.
And while it’s difficult to anticipate how exactly the Nanooks will look coming off a month-long break, it isn’t as hard to predict how Berenson plans to fix his patchwork defense — or as Berenson called it, a “rotating defense” — long thought to be the team’s strength entering the season.
One coping strategy will be moving senior forward Jeff Rohrkemper back to the blue line. Rohrkemper filled in on defense against Northern Michigan earlier this season.
The Wolverines will also make adjustments in how ice time is allotted. During the Great Lakes Invitational, sophomore defenseman Mike Szuma was thrust into action despite being one of the unit’s less experienced players. Berenson compensated by limiting the number of minutes he played.
The lone bright spot the defense is the return of its long-awaited top pairing of freshman Jacob Trouba and senior Jon Merrill, who will take a huge chunk of the ice time.
“Trouba and Merrill are going to play a lot more than the other four,” Berenson said of the Alaska series.
Berenson said that he usually puts a 25-minute ceiling on his top pairing’s ice time going into games. Forwards, by contrast, are typically in the eight to 18 minute range.
DEFECTION TO MAJOR JUNIORS: Freshman forward Daniel Milne has left the Michigan hockey program, the team confirmed Thursday.
Milne, a Unionville, Ont. native, played in seven games this season without tallying a point. He signed an Ontario Hockey League Standard Player Agreement with the Owen Sound Attack on Friday.
Michigan coach Red Berenson said in a statement that Milne informed him of the decision to leave Ann Arbor on Thursday.
“While we are disappointed with his decision, it is important to note that he is leaving in good academic standing,” Berenson said in the statement.
Milne was selected in the third round of the 2010 OHL Priority Selection.
“We are extremely thrilled that Daniel has chosen the Attack and the OHL to further his hockey career,” said Owen Sound general manager Dale DeGray. “In 2010, we felt that he was a player that could contribute greatly to our team and our feelings have not wavered in that regard.”
KEEPING THE PIPELINE STRONG: While one former St. Michael’s Buzzer left the program Thursday, another one joined it on Wednesday.
Defenseman Jared Walsh committed to join the Michigan program for the 2015-16 season. Walsh has 16 points, including 15 assists, for the Buzzers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League this season. According to a press release from the Buzzers, he was offered “several” NCAA scholarships and an OHL contract.