Michigan lost a lot of minutes on their blueline with Brandon Burlon turning pro, Chad Langlais graduating, and Tristin Llewellyn...umm...doing something.
Michigan fans thought we had dodged a bullet with Jon Merrill deciding to pass up a pro contract to return for his sophomore season. Last week, however, he was suspended for a dozen games (including the two exhibitions) due to a violation of team rules.
When he's in the lineup, though, he's as good as anyone we've had in a long time. As a freshman, he was a finalist for the CCHA Rookie of the Year, the CCHA Best Offensive Defenseman, and the CCHA Best Defensive Defenseman. He also made 2nd team All USCHO, 2nd team All CCHA, and was named to both the CCHA All-Rookie team and the INCH All Rookie team. 7-18--25 in 42 games, +11, only 16 PIMs, and he posted a pair of goals during the Big Chill. He also was far-and-away the team leader in blocked shots with 70. He's absolutely fantastic and I really hope that he doesn't have any thoughts about joining Plymouth to avoid this suspension. Outside of Shawn Hunwick, this is the guy that Michigan can least afford to lose.
He's joined by four other returners on the blueline. Greg Pateryn is the lone senior rearguard and he's as underrated as they come. After putting up 1-10--11 his first two years combined, he exploded offensively for 3-14--17 in 40 games a year ago. His +/- also jumped to a career-best +15. He made the All Regional team after Michigan knocked off UNO and CC in the Tournament a year ago. He does a pretty nice job of getting shots through--and actually took the shot that ultimately led to the game-winner against UNO. 28 PIMs may be a just a tick higher than you would want, but it's certainly not egregious for what he brings to the table. He's a really solid all-around guy.
Lee Moffie also made the All Regional team last year. He's a pretty nice offensive threat back on the blueline. Even though he only had the same number of points as Pateryn, who is thought of as more of a stay-at-home guy, he did lead all Michigan defensemen in goals with 8. Only Wohlberg, Brown, Lynch, and Treais scored more goals last year and return to the team this year. That's slightly scary. He put in 5 on the PP (second to Hagelin's 7). He struggled to get into the lineup early in the year, only playing in 8 of the first 17 games, but only sat out 3 times after the GLI (Llewellyn's dismissal clearly had something to do with that). After Llewellyn was given the boot, Moffie responded with a 3-game goal streak, and a four-game point streak (going for 3-2--5). He also had 4 goals and 7 points during post-season play. Even though he's more known for his offensive instincts, don't forget his check in OT on senior night that started the play that led to Hagelin's winner.
Kevin Clare struggled at some points last season, but still ended the year +12, which is nothing to sneeze at, especially considering he only had 2 points. He's definitely a stay-at-home guy, but God knows we need one of those every now and then. The biggest thing with Clare was that he couldn't consistently get on the ice. During the regular season, he played back-to-back games on just one occasion. He did play 6 consecutive games to close the year, however.
I think we've only just begun to scratch the surface of what Mac Bennett will be able to do. The kid can absolutely fly. One of the Wolverines (I think it was Treais), Tweeted the other day that Bennett "skates like Summers". He had 2-10--12 and was +12 in 32 games a year ago. I mentioned last year that I thought Bennett sometimes was trying to go too fast. He turned the puck over quite a bit, and a lot of the time it was because he was just moving too quickly and he lost it. Now that he's got some experience and the game will slow down a little bit, I think he's going to have a very nice season.
I profiled Szuma, Serville, and Chiasson when I talked about the freshmen. It sounds like Szuma is a little bit nicked up right now.
Now to the goaltenders:
With Shawn Hunwick returning for a fifth-year and the talented John Gibson coming in, Michigan was set up to have the best goalie duo in the country. Gibson bailed, so the Wolverines are left once again completely depending on the short but aggressive netminder. As long as Hunwick stays healthy, we're fine. Despite where he ends up being ranked in the CCHA polls, we have one of the best goaltenders in the country. The kid is just money.
It's amazing that he continues to get overlooked in some circles after what he's done the past two seasons. He was 22-9-4 last year with a 2.21/.925, was named the West Region's Most Outstanding Player, and was USCHO 1st team. He also won the CCHA Best Goaltender award for having the lowest GAA, but was NOT one of the goalies named to the All-Conference Team, which was an absolute joke. Nagle, Greenham, Reichard, and Kapalka all received more votes. Christ, he had a 1.94/.931 in conference.
Given a chance to redeem themselves, the voters repeated their mistake again with the Preseason All Conference teams. Reichard was the first team goalie, which you absolutely cannot make a case for over Hunwick. Greenham was second-team and Kapalka was an Honorable Mention. He was also not mentioned in USCHO's top-ten goalies in the nation, though 4 other CCHA goalies made the list.
Backing up Hunwick is Adam Janecyk. Who the frig knows what we've got in him! He's played 1:32 in his career. You kind of wonder if they'll be more reluctant to throw guys in during garbage time in case they find the next Hunwick at some point. Thank God they didn't play him his sophomore season...Anyway, back to Janecyk. He comes from a good lineage, as his father had more than a cup of coffee as a goaltender in the NHL in the 80s (he actually played 51 games one year for LA). Adam played in the USHL before coming to Michigan and was 8-13-4 with a 3.56/.887 during his year with Sioux City.
Luke Dwyer will apparently be the third goalie.
So yeah...we'll see. Michigan fell to the Ontario Institute of Technology in exhibition play, but rebounded with a 3-1 win over the NTDP tonight. Di Giuseppe has scored in both games, which is really nice to see. I think he could surprise some people this year. Moffatt and Sparks had the other goals tonight. Also good guys to see light the lamp and we need Moffatt to step up, and I'd like to see Sparks end up with some more ice time, given that Michigan will probably struggle to score goals at times.
Niagara won their exhibition over Queens by a 7-2 count. Scott Arnold had a hat trick in that game and CJ Chartrain had a playmaker.
Niagara was picked to finish 4th in Atlantic Hockey. Last year, Dave Burkholder's team was 18-13-4 but they lost an awful lot. Paul Zanette (29-26--55) and Bryan Haczyk (28-17--45) are gone, and take their 20 combined power-play goals with them. So is Ryan Annesley, who had 4-23--27 on the blueline. Arnold is the top returning goal-scorer. He had 16-6--22 in 34 games and they really like him. They do have another Zanette, though he isn't as good as his All-American brother. After scoring 7-13--20 as a freshman, he had just 4-3--7 in 34 games as a sophomore. Giancarlo Iuorio is the leading returning scorer. He had 9-24--33 in 31 games last year.
Arnold played with Ryan Rashid and Patrick Divjak on an all-freshman line last season. They accounted for 32 goals in 35 games.
The Purple Eagles played four different goalies last year. Chris Noonan played the most often, going 8-3-2 with a 2.93/.903. He'll be a senior this year, and I have to believe he's the starter (though he's the only one that didn't play in their exhibition game). Cody Campbell was 4-6-1 with a 3.38/.895 during his freshman campaign. Another freshman, Carsen Chubak, was 4-3-1 with a 2.80/.899. All three of those goalies saw time against Queens. Chubak actually got the start and gave up 1 goal on 2 shots. Campbell got the win, with 3 saves on 4 shots. Colby Drost, a freshman, made 4 saves in a perfect third period.