The Michigan hockey team will host Boston University and UMass Lowell this weekend at Yost Ice Arena, and the Wolverines will likely be without starting goalie Steve Racine after the sophomore suffered a groin injury Oct. 18 in a 1-1 tie with New Hampshire.
News: Racine suffered the injury less than two minutes into the third period, exiting the game, and not returning during the weekend. He has not practiced this week and is not expected to play against the Terriers and River Hawks.
Red Berenson: "I would guess he'll be week to week. I don't see him playing this weekend. I don't even see him practicing with his equipment on. It's not a serious injury, but for a goalie, the way they go down all the time, it's more serious than for a regular skater.
"It's a weird thing. I watched the replay. It wasn't like he really had to spread eagle, but it is what it is."
Views: Very disappointing news for the Maize and Blue, but more for Racine. After his struggles the first few months last season, he finished his freshman year strong and was off to a great start this year, going 2-0-1 with a 2.23 goals against average and a .931 save percentage in three starts.
Racine will be back at some point, but how will the injury affect him mentally, and will the job even be his if freshman Zach Nagelvoort continues to play well in his absence? Those are questions we'll address another day, but they could be very real issues when Racine is healthy enough to return.
News: In his first career action, Nagelvoort stopped 13 third-period shots, including a penalty shot, and two overtime shots to hold UNH off the board. In his first career start, the rookie had 22 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory. He will start against BU and UML this weekend.
Berenson: "He played really well. He had to. I'm sure he wasn't expecting to go in, but he was ready to go in. He had to stop a penalty shot in the third period. That gave him a lot of confidence, and the team. He played solid all weekend.
"He knew this situation he was coming into that he would be a backup and maybe compete for a starting job at some point, but you never know when you'll get your chance. Not that long ago, I told him, 'You just have to be ready because I don't know when you're going to play.' There's never a plan for something like that.
"He's a pretty confident kid. Pretty stable. Pretty athletic and he knows what he can do."
Views: What a difference a year makes. In 2012-13, the Maize and Blue got off to a horrendous start and while it wasn't all goalie play, both Racine and former teammate Jared Rutledge struggled mightily. Fast-forward 12 months and not only is Racine playing well, but now the Wolverines have a No. 2 that proved his mettle in a tough road environment.
It would be unfair of us to expect Nagelvoort to be a shutdown, two-goals-per-game netminder right off the bat, but he does require the skills and talent to be a solid fill-in for Racine, and potentially more than that.
News: Freshman left winger Tyler Motte shares the team lead in goal scoring with three in four games, including the overtime game-winner last Saturday.
Berenson: "I was fully expecting him and JT Compher to start off with some serious momentum. They've done it with the US program and it's no surprise that they're going to do it here.
"Tyler is the kind of kid where the puck seems to follow him. He's a hardworking player with skill and smarts, and good instincts. Even defensively, I trust him as a penalty killer. Here he is in his first few weeks at Michigan, and he's killing penalties. He and JT. He's a kid that is ready to play at both ends of the ice."
Views: Those that saw Motte in-person the past few years recognized him as a terrific two-way forward that seems to play bigger than his 5-10, 185-pound size. If he was two to three inches taller, he probably would be a first- or second-round pick.
Motte just has a solid all-around game, and possesses the potential to be someone that comes up big for the Wolverines in key games. He's a hockey player, in the truest sense of the phrase, and will do the little things and the big things to help U-M win.
News: Michigan switched up its lines in the second game of the New Hampshire series and will likely stick with them this weekend, moving junior Phil Di Giuseppe to the first line alongside sophomore center Andrew Copp and senior right wing Derek DeBlois, while moving junior Alex Guptill to the left wing on the second line with sophomore center Boo Nieves and junior right wing Zach Hyman.
Michigan also features an all-freshman line, with Motte on the left wing, Compher at center and Evan Allen on the right.
Berenson: "Phil has played with Boo a lot, and I just didn't see either one of them taking the step that we need them to take this year. Even though Phil had two goals against RIT, his game is still not where I want it to be. So I'm putting him on a line with Copp and Derek, who are two of our hardest-working two-way players, and that's what I want Phil to pick up on -- that second-effort hockey, defensive awareness, and work ethic, and playing at both ends of the ice.
"On the flipside, it wasn't so much Guptill but the centerman, and having a second line that could score. Guptill played really well against RIT. He didn't play well Friday but he was still our most dangerous player. I thought Boo should play better on that big ice. He has to make more things happen than he has made happen, so I put Guptill with him and talked to both of them about what I'm expecting, and I thought they both delivered in the Saturday game.
"I didn't think there was enough going on with our third line, with Luke Moffatt, even though Luke is leading our team in goals. I thought the line could be better, and I'd like to see if Allen is a good fit. He might be as dangerous a shooter as anyone on our team, and he played with those kids - not on a regular line, but they were all teammates for Team USA."
Views: Even though we're only four games into his junior year, this is make or break time for Di Giuseppe. The junior has underachieved for two seasons. He has all the skill in the world - in fact he might have the most natural offensive ability on the team - but he doesn't get the most out of it because he just seems to float through games, lacking that sense of urgency on every shift to be an impact player. By pairing him with Copp and DeBlois, the hope is those two will demand he skates with greater fire, and if it doesn't happen, then it's just not going to regardless of the situation.
Nieves needs to play grittier also, and put his skating and hands to work on every shift. Guptill finds a way to score - he's led U-M with 16 markers each of the past two seasons - and plays the game with an edge so maybe he can bring out the best in Nieves.
As for the rookies, with five freshman forwards it was only a matter of time that there would be an all-freshman line. Compher and Motte have enjoyed incredible chemistry so far, combining for seven points, while Allen hasn't really had a big chance to show what he can do playing on the fourth line (he has one point in four games).
With both Compher and Motte so aware defensively, Berenson can feel comfortable that both ends of the rink will be protected, and perhaps the energy that Compher and Motte create will do wonders for Allen.
News: Michigan and New Hampshire were whistled for 35 penalties over the weekend, including 19 on U-M. The Wildcats were awarded a penalty shot last Friday when DeBlois lifted a player's stick on a breakaway, on one of the most impressive defensive plays you will see. Neither coach was happy with the officiating.
Berenson: "I've seen people that look like a cowboy, smell like a cowboy but they couldn't ride a horse."
Views: Berenson said that wasn't meant as a criticism of the officials, but it was, and it was a dandy.