Another Atlantic Hockey foe travels to Yost Ice Arena this weekend as the Wolverines welcome the Bentley Falcons to town. The Falcons opened last season with a road series at Michigan and got swept by the Wolverines by 5-1 and 4-1 margins. This year they get to play a one-off Friday night game at 7:35 p.m. ET. Geoff Chiles will be at Yost live blogging all the action for MHNet.
The good news for the Falcons is they opened this season on a more positive note with a 7-1 victory over Sacred Heart last weekend. It appeared to be a penalty-filled contest with Sacred Heart getting whistled 12 times for 51 penalty minutes, while Bentley got called 12 times for 35 minutes in the box. The Falcons finished the game 4-for-8 on the power play and held Sacred Heart to just 1-for-10 with the man-advantage.
Bentley has posted just two seasons at or above .500 since becoming a Division I program in 1999. Last season they finished 16-16-8 overall and 13-7-7 in conference play. In theory this is another game Michigan should handily win, however the Falcons do return a strong core of underclassmen and could make things interesting if given an opportunity like RIT was Friday night.
WHO TO WATCH: Junior forward Brett Gensler, sophomore forwards Alex Grieve and Brett Switzer, sophomore defenseman Steve Weinstein, and junior goalie Branden Komm.
The guy to keep an eye on is junior forward Brett Gensler. Last year Gensler led the Falcons with 23 goals and 27 assists in 40 games, and this past weekend he picked up where he left off with a goal and three assist in the first game of the season.
Helping him out are sophomore forwards Alex Grieve and Brett Switzer. Grieve had 15 goals and 19 assists in 39 games his freshman season, while Switzer posted 14 goals and 19 assists in 39 games during his rookie campaign.
The trio of Gensler, Grieve, and Switzer definitely form a solid foundation up front for the Falcons.
Sophomore blue liner Steve Weinstein led the team’s defensemen in scoring last season with 2-16-18 in 38 games. Fellow sophomore rearguard Matt Maher recorded 2-10-12 in 39 games his rookie year.
In net, junior goalie Branden Komm returns between the pipes. He posted a 16-14-7 record with a 2.41 goals against average and a respectable .923 save percentage last season. He also had three shutouts.
MICHIGAN GOALIE BATTLE
On this week’s edition of Inside Michigan Hockey posted online yesterday, Red Berenson said he’s made a decision on who to start in net this weekend but doesn’t want to publicize it. All he would say is it’ll be a freshman. Ha!
Freshman Jared Rutledge suffered one of the worst debuts in net as he gave up five goals, all of which Berenson considered soft, that allowed RIT to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win 5-4 in overtime.
The following night freshman Steve Racine took to the net and put forth a solid outing, allowing just two goals in a 7-2 win.
Berenson on the goalie situation via Michael Spath at The Wolverine:
“My thing for the goalies is, ‘Make the saves you’re capable of making on a regular basis. You make them every day in practice, so you should be able to make them in a game. It’s the bad goals against that jump up and bite you.’
“They know that and need to eliminate the bad goals. In Rutledge’s case, they never scored a good goal on him,” Berenson said. “All the goals were kind of tainted. And could he have saved most of them? Yeah.”
Junior defenseman Jon Merrill remains out of the line up as he recovers from a cracked vertebrae.
Senior defenseman Kevin Clare is also out for this weekend’s game after suffering a should injury in Saturday’s game against RIT.
Per Spath, the defensive pairings this week have been: Bennett-Trouba, Moffie-Chiasson, and Serville-Szuma. I’m a bit surprised with the Bennett-Trouba pairing instead of splitting them and putting Serville and Szuma with each of them to balance it out.