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October 8, 2013

News & Views: U-M opens season Thursday vs. Boston College

The Michigan hockey team opens the season officially on Thursday when it hosts No. 4 Boston College. Head coach Red Berenson met with the media Tuesday to talk about his team and its debut.

News: The Wolverines lost in their preseason exhibition Sunday, falling 2-1 to Waterloo despite outshooting the Warriors 35-22.

Berenson: "I liked some of our system play that we've been working on in terms of our D-zone, and I liked some of our rushes. We didn't get a lot of out-numbered rushes but when we did, we managed the puck well. We didn't score on our best chances.

"I thought our power play moved the puck well. We didn't get pucks to the net as well as we need to. I thought our goalies played well. They gave us a chance. Both goals were rebound goals that could have been prevented. On the negative side, our coverage - backchecking, D-zone coverage -- was a little loose and it has to be better against a better team."

Views: The knee-jerk reaction to Sunday's loss was to lament the season before it even gets underway, but this is a young team with 10 freshmen (including nine that played) that will likely take a few games before it finds its rhythm. The Maize and Blue were also playing their first game while Waterloo was engaged in its third, and the difference in skating showed.

Thursday's game is when it counts, and U-M may lose, but it's a matter of how the Wolverines play and compete. Regardless, there is no reason to panic. There is a lot to like about this team, more so than a year ago, and come November and beyond, Michigan should be one of the Big Ten's better teams.

News: Three freshman defensemen - Nolan De Jong, Michael Downing and Kevin Lohan - all played in the exhibition and all are expected to be in the starting lineup Thursday.

Berenson: "It was good for them to get a game at Yost. A little confidence. I thought they played pretty well."

Views: It is no surprise that De Jong and Downing played, as they were both highly-regarded rookies coming in, but Lohan was thought to need a little more time after spending only one season in elite junior hockey.

It's a long year, but the emergence of the three probably speaks to the prospects of juniors Mike Chiasson and Michael Szuma more than it does to the potential of the three freshmen. Chiasson has never been able to earn a regular spot in the lineup and will be hard pressed to do so this season. Szuma was a preferred walk-on and was always supposed to be a depth player, a role he will continue in.

News: Junior forward Alex Guptill will sit out the Boston College game, a one-game suspension stemming from a summer off-ice issue. Guptill will make his season debut Saturday when U-M plays at RIT.

Berenson: "It just happens to be a big game. This isn't something I like but it's the right thing to do. It's not something he likes either. It's a home game, a big game and a tough game to miss."

Views: Berenson noted that the Eagles have three proven goal scorers and the Wolverines' best - Guptill had 16 goals in both 2012 and 2013 - will be on the bench. That's not an excuse but shows the challenge Michigan will face. Berenson said Guptill is taking responsibility for his actions and that he's determined to be a solid student-athlete at U-M.

Let's hope so. The success of this team is predicated on some of its veterans, and best players, leading the way until the freshmen catch up. Guptill is Michigan's best forward, a natural goal scorer, and a guy that has played big in critical stretches. The Wolverines need him but they need him to take care of business off the ice too.

News: Boston College is one of six ranked teams Michigan will face in its non-conference games. Featuring the great Jerry York as coach, the Eagles bring incredible buzz to the opener.

Berenson: "He's told his team what it's like to play at Yost. What a great place it is. I talked to him yesterday. I have a great relationship with him. The old guys have to stick together.

"We know what to expect. They'll play hard and they'll be good with the puck. They'll be physical. They have a good goalie. They have three proven Division I scorers."

Views: Oh what fun this will be. Opening with Boston College is like opening with Alabama in football (for fans, hopefully with a better result). The last time U-M opened a season with a top-10 team was when it saw No. 2 BC in the 2007-08 Ice Breaker Invitational. It hasn't entertained a top-10 opponent in its home opener since the 2005 season (No. 8 New Hampshire).

There are still tickets remaining and I'd recommend if you can make it, to grab one.

Michigan NEWS


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