On Tuesday, USA Hockey announced that Michigan freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba was named to the the United States’ World Junior team’s preliminary roster.
“It’s always an interesting experience for those kids,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “It’ll be a good measuring stick for (Trouba). He’s already in a good place right now, (but) he’ll come back and should give us a lift.”
This wouldn’t be the first time Trouba has represented the United States at an international level — he won a gold medal at the Under-18 World Junior Championship earlier this year.
If Trouba makes the final team final roster, which is announced on Dec. 23, he will miss the Great Lakes Invitational to play in the World Junior Championship, held this year in Ufa, Russia from Dec. 26-Jan 5.
Trouba’s absence at the GLI would be a significant blow to Michigan’s defensive corps, which has already been severely depleted with injuries and has struggled throughout the season.
Junior Jon Merrill, who was expected to be the Wolverines’ top defenseman, hasn’t seen action since cracking his seventh vertebrae in an exhbition game against Windsor on Oct. 9. Though Merrill is no longer wearing a neck brace, Berenson still expects it to be months before he is healthy enough to skate again.
Junior defenseman Kevin Clare also sustained an undisclosed injury within the past month, though he still played in last Friday’s game against Ferris State. Berenson scratched Clare on Saturday.
Berenson said his top priority is now keeping players healthy enough to compensate for Trouba’s inevitable absence from the GLI — there is little doubt in his mind that Trouba will make the roster.
“If (Trouba) doesn’t make the final cut, I want to see the guys that do,” Berenson joked.
GOING FOR THE GOAL: Though Michigan’s goaltending has been lackluster at best thus far this the season, Berenson hasn’t pointed fingers at freshmen goalies Steve Racine and Jared Rutledge for Michigan’s 5-8-2 record.
Though Berenson never expected an easy transition for the pair, he didn’t anticipate Michigan to be No. 1 in the CCHA for goals allowed per game, with 3.5.
“You’re never going to be a winning team without good goaltending and I think we’re not far off the mark,” Berenson said. “We’ve got to get our goals-against down and our save percenaget up, no matter who’s playing.”
Rutledge started on Friday, though after allowing five goals, it wasn’t a difficult decision to put in Racine the next night.
Though he gave up a goal in the first 42 seconds of the game, Racine quickly recovered and looked more comfortable in the crease as the night went on. With the game tied in the third period, Ferris State swarmed Michigan’s zone to look for the game winner.
Berenson estimated that the Bulldogs had about five quality looks at net during that time, including one on a breakaway, and he was impressed that Racine “made some great saves.”
Though he looked good in the game’s waning minutes, Racine didn’t look as impressive earlier in the contest when he let in three goals that Berenson dubbed soft. The Wolverines will never put full responsibility for losses on the goalies, they still need them to step up more when they can.
“We need (the goalies) to be able to make the save they’re able to make,” Berenson said. “We’re victimized by our goalies giving up a bad goal at a bad time. It just kills you.”
BYE, BYE, BYE: Michigan has its first of two byes this weekend before facing Western Michigan next Friday.
The most welcome aspect of the bye week isn’t that it gives the Wolverines extra practice before its next series — it’s that it gives them extra time for school work.
“It’s nice to have a bye week any time of year,” said junior defenseman Mac Bennett. “Especially now with exams, our guys will get some rest that’s been well deserved.”