Last season appears to be a distant memory for the Michigan hockey team. There were no slumping shoulders on the ice or in the post-game press conference. The all-freshmen line of Tyler Motte, J.T. Compher, and Evan Allen played with speed and tenacity. Freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort was a picture of calm in his crease, and junior Alex Guptill refused to let the moment get to him as he lined up for the game’s winning goal. No nerves, no jitters, and no doubts for this year’s team–just confidence.
Michigan was the aggressor from the outset, skating hard, passing with clarity, and dominating play in the offensive zone.
U-M’s power play, which coming into the game had clicked at a thirty-three-percent efficiency, was held in check in the first period, going 0-3.
Michigan head coach Red Berenson reassured his team to keep their heads up and stay focused despite BU goaltender Matt O’Connor’s strong play.
“I told the team, ‘Don’t be discouraged if you’re going up against a good goalie.’ O’Connor played really well tonight, and he gave his team a chance on the road.”
The Terriers withstood the Wolverines’ barrage of shots, but managed to score the game’s first goal to go up 1-0 at 18:25. Robbie Baillargeon uncorked a blistering shot into the upper left corner of the net past Michigan freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort. BU was being outshot after one, 14-6, but they led where it counted, 1-0.
The all-freshmen line of Motte, Compher, and Allen was stellar for the Maize and Blue in the second period, and combined for 13 shots-on-goal in the game. Motte banged a centering pass off the outside of the post, and Compher and Allen buzzed around the net all night.
Michigan limited any dangerous activity around Nagelvoort, and at the close of the second, they held a dominating shot advantage of 30-12. U-M was clearly the better team, but they still trailed, 1-0. Last year’s team may have folded, but this is a new season, and a determined bunch of Wolverines.
Michigan finally found the equalizer at 7:16 of the third on the power play.
Senior captain Mac Bennett looked off BU’s defenders, and sent a pass directly to Motte’s stick. Stationed along the lower right faceoff circle, the freshman unloaded a shot into a wide open net to extend his goal streak to four. This was finally a shot that O’Connor couldn’t get to. Yost was in a frenzy, but the play showcased pure calm from Bennett and Motte.
Motte was effusive in his praise for his captain.
“Unbelievable pass. It goes through sticks, through skates, and lands right on my stick,” he said. “He’s been making those passes for years, you have to be ready for those.”
Michigan delivered the kill shot to the Terriers just moments later at 8:46.
Junior left wing Alex Guptill skated in alone on a breakaway, but was hooked on his arm. The decibal level inside Yost rose as a penalty shot was awarded, and the pressure was squarely on Guptill. But this wasn’t last year’s team. The gravity of the moment would not faze him. He took the shot and scored five-hole, cleanly beating O’Connor to give U-M the 2-1 lead for good. Guptill had played against O’Connor before, and that insight proved crucial.
“The penalty shot felt nerve-wracking. To be honest, my heart was racing. I played against him back in the day in the Ontario leagues. He’s a big guy, I decided on the five-hole, went forehand, and just got rid of the shot quick.”
Michigan’s mentality is vastly different from where it was a season ago. There is confidence. But most of all, there is leadership. As one of those leaders, Guptill sees it firsthand.
“I think it just shows the maturity level of this group. We were down 1-0, but the freshmen stuck with it. It shows the leadership on this team. We find the tying goal, and all the momentum. It was a great comeback.”
No Alex Guptill? No problem for the Michigan hockey team.
Michigan scored one goal in each period on Thursday night to defeat Boston College in their home opener and to claim a huge early season win at Yost over a ranked opponent. The Eagles remain winless all-time against the Wolverines on the road; they are 0-5 all-time in Ann Arbor.
Two of college hockey’s titans waged war for another classic battle on the ice, with both featuring a large freshman class (BC: seven, U-M: 10). But it was Michigan who played like the veteran team. They pushed, shoved, swiped, and stole pucks away from a Boston College squad that consistently turned pucks over, a “no-no” on the road.
From the opening whistle, the Maize and Blue pushed the pace and featured the better group of chances, outshooting BC 10-9, but Boston College junior goaltender Brian Billett kept his team in the game. Senior Mac Bennett set the tone for the game, jumping into the play early on a two-on-two rush. He fired a shot off the left shoulder of Billett. Moments later, Boston College nearly got on the board first, sending a cross-ice pass right through the crease. Sophomore goaltender Steve Racine made the inexplicable save, stepping across his crease standing up to stop a puck he didn’t even see. The puck was juggled, but Racine pounced on it to keep the game scoreless.
Wolverines capitalizing on B.C. turnovers and errant neutral-zone-play would become a trend throughout the game, and it gifted U-M with the game’s opening goal. Freshman center J.T. Compher lugged the puck down the right side of the ice, hounded by two Eagles while on the power play. The savvy passer was forced wide by the Eagles, but managed to send a gorgeous pass to senior right-winger Luke Moffatt. Moffatt slammed the puck home for his first of the year at the 7:25 mark.
On Michigan’s third power-play-chance of the contest, the nearly upped their lead to two. Freshman forward Alex Kile made a slick move to enter the zone one-on-one, take the puck, and deke to his right. He went around his defender, and just missed sliding the puck past Billett.
While Billett gave his best effort to keep the deficit at one, Racine matched him save-for-save. The Eagles carried the puck down, and came in on a partial breakaway. Racine stuffed his pads together to prevent a five-hole-goal.
As the second period began, Boston College began to find their legs and make a surge in momentum. In spite of that, freshman defenseman Nolan De Jong further impressed with his steady play on the back end. De Jong displayed a calmness and ability to learn from his partner, senior defenseman and captain, Mac Bennett. On one occasion, he thwarted a glorious Boston College chance by tying his man up on a loose puck in front of the U-M net.
Michigan did their best to counter the Boston College surge with one of their own. On their end, they outhustled and dogged the Eagles, and on the other, they skated with a purpose and passed with precision.
The lead stretched to two at 5:03 of the second period as the Maize and Blue scored on a strange play. A shot from the point goes wide and hits the glass behind the Boston College cage. Sophomore forward Andrew Copp shot the puck from behind the goal-line. The puck deflected in front of Billett’s net, hit his defenseman, and caromed into the back of the net. Senior forward Derek DeBlois and freshman defenseman Michael Downing picked up the assists. Copp played a sensational game: along with his goal, he notched two assists, took five shots-on-goal, and was very responsible when he had the puck.
Michigan’s penalty-killers kept the Eagles at bay, denying them on the power-play twice. But they eventually got on the board at 10:05. Freshman defenseman Ian McCoshen skated across the Michigan blueline, squaring his body to accept a pass from junior forward Johnny Gaudreau. McCoshen took a great pass in stride, and one-timed it past a scurrying Racine to bring the Eagles to within one, 2-1.
Racine protected the slim lead brilliant. He slid across his crease to make a few diving saves, and even managed to stop his puck ten feet out from his net during a mad scramble. Amazingly, the Eagles did not score, missing on a wide-open net.
After two periods, Michigan had the edge in shots, 25-16, and on the scoreboard where it counted, 2-1.
J.T. Compher’s assertive play on both ends stood out. The talented freshman backchecked on any Eagle who happened to have the puck, set up his linemates, and passed the puck like a professional. He finished with two assists, and two shots-on-goal.
Before Boston College had a chance to settle in for the third period, the Wolverines scored in the blink of an eye to make it 3-1. Moffatt scored his second of the game–and second on the power-play–off a pretty pass from Copp. Moffatt entered the B.C. zone and set up at the left faceoff dot. Copp feathered a perfect pass that Moffatt absolutely uncorked into the back of the Boston College net. Michigan finished with 32 shots, and Boston College had 21.
Michigan next travels to RIT on Saturday night for their first road game of the season.
This was first reported about a week ago, and Jared confirmed with me the other day it was going to happen, and today it was finally made official as Mississauga (OHL) announced the signing of 2014 defensive
commit Jared Walsh.
Recently rated a ‘C’ skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Preliminary “Players to Watch” list, Walsh was the Wolverines’ top incoming blue liner who played for the St. Michael’s pipeline in Ontario.
With the loss of Walsh and Bryson Cianfrone, also to Mississauga, in recent weeks, the Wolverines 2014 recruiting class is down to four players, only one of which is a defenseman. With seven returning blue liners next year (provided no one leaves early) and one recruit, the Wolverines could risk not finding another player to replace him, but I think it’s more likely they’ll pick up blue line commit.
NHL CSS released their preliminary Players to Watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft and a few current and future Wolverines pop up on the list. Headlining the group is forward Dylan Larkin out of the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team, who is listed as an “A” skater out of the USHL (“A” rating = potential first round pick, “B” = rounds 2-3, “C” = late round potential).
“Dylan skates well and has great closing speed, uses his body well,” Central Scouting’s David Gregory told NHL.com. “He has skill to make plays but is not afraid of using his body and getting physical in an attempt to gain puck possession. He’s got good vision and playmaking ability.”
Also making the list out of the USHL is goalie commit Hayden Lavigne, who is listed as a “B” prospect. Lavigne just made the jump from the Ontario Junior Hockey League to Tri-City of the USHL. If the preseason statistics are any indication, he should be the starting goalie. He saw action in three games with a 2-1-0 record, 2.42 GAA, and .925 save percentage. Statistically, he was far and away the best of the Storm’s three netminders that played in the preseason.
Wolverine freshmen Evan Allen and Alex Kile both garnered “C” ratings. Allen was one of the top scorers with the U.S. NTDP Under-18 Team last season and some were surprised he went undrafted. Kile posted 31 goals and 31 assists in 60 games with t he Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL last season.
@intheoradio told through connections at SMC he has signed with Mississauga of OHL. Forgoing scholarship w/ Michigan. SAT intimidation.
— Clayton Johns (@cjohnsmedia) September 21, 2013
So this passed by my Twitter feed this morning. I’m waiting to hear back from someone that might know, too. If the Wolverines lose Walsh, that would be another blow to the 2014 recruiting class. This coming on the heels of Mississauga signing commit Bryson Cianfrone, too.
Walsh is considered Michigan’s top blue line recruit for the class, and he’s probably their second best recruit behind Dylan Larkin.
UPDATE: I checked with someone with a few OHL connections and neither of their sources have heard anything regarding Walsh signing with Mississauga.
When it comes to OHL signings, there’s usually a reason for smoke when it’s detected.
Neither of my main guys has heard it, though.
I will keep you posted of any further developments.
UPDATE #2: Going, going…soon to be gone.
Kept it quiet until I knew for sure, but St. Mikes Buzzers defender Jared Walsh will soon sign with the Mississauga Steelheads.
— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) September 22, 2013
And with that, Michigan’s 2014 recruiting class now down to four commits. They’ll graduate five seniors this season and could lose more players early to the pros. It’s already late in the recruiting cycle and just about all the top players have committed, so it will be interesting to see who the coaches can snag at this point.