Dec 9, 2011; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Red Berenson (center) watches the game in the third period against the Michigan State Spartans at Yost Arena. Michigan won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Michigan Hockey: Begins With Renewed Excitement & Plenty Of Questions -- Part I

Posted at 5:45am — 10/4/2012

Michigan Hockey: Begins With Renewed Excitement & Plenty Of Questions — Part I

(This is part I of a three part look at the upcoming U-M hockey team, the CCHA’s final season and a national perspective.)

Yost Arena will have a new look for returning patrons this season- a fresher, bolder appearance featuring new concession corridors, brighter, more open natural light through opaque thermal windows, new state of the art sound and lighting systems, sparkling aluminum bleachers, and a new press box with additional luxury suites. What isn’t new is the expectations from a fan base that has seen the program climb the mountain several times but has failed to reach the summit since 1998.

Gone are five familiar faces from last year’s roster, with the biggest being goaltender Shawn Hunwick- who took the net by the reins and covered it for the Michigan faithful with the comfort of Linus’ blanket.

Chris Brown also suddenly left behind his senior year for the pro ranks (a decision I’m sure he has some regrets about considering the NHL’s stalemate with the NHLPA) which left a gaping hole in Michigan’s roster. Suddenly the Wolverines found themselves, once recovered from a disappointing first round overtime NCAA tournament exit, without their most experienced defenseman, their Captain, their top netminder and two of their leading points makers.

Coach Red Berenson (who eased of the minds of some who thought he may depart) renewed a lengthy three year pact to stay on with the Wolverines. He and his coaching staff followed that up with what is considered by some publications as one of the top recruiting classes in the country (even with the defection of defenseman Connor Carrick to the OHL) and certainly the top class in the CCHA. This lofty praise has transcended Michigan into one of the 2012-13 favorites in the CCHA and an early (very early) #3 pre-season ranking in the USA Today National Poll.

Michigan will be led by senior Captain AJ Treais along with (Alternate Captains) junior defensemen Mac Bennett and senior defensemen Lee Moffie. In addition, forwards Kevin Lynch, Jeff Rohrkemper and Lindsay Sparks will round out the class of 2013 and add depth to the roster.

Apr 9, 2011; St. Paul, MN, USA; Michigan Wolverines defenseman Jon Merrill (24) checks Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs forward Jack Connolly (A) (12) off the puck in the second period during the championship of the 2011 Frozen Four at Xcel Energey Center. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-US PRESSWIRE

The junior class features uber-defenseman Jon Merrill who decided to return to Michigan after giving the NHL a hard look. “I don’t want to give up eligibility to play in the minor leagues” Merrill said. This was on the heels of what could be described as an underwhelming 2011-12 from Merrill- one pocked with suspension and sub par performance. Merrill is joined by Bennett, defenseman Kevin Clare, forwards Luke Moffatt and Derek DeBlois and netminder Adam Janecyk.

The sophomore class consists of nine Wolverines led by forward and top returning points maker Alex Guptill. He will be joined by the fluid Phil Di Giuseppe. Grinding forwards Zach Hyman, Travis Lynch and Andre Sinelli look to bolster each of their respective lines. Defensemen Mike Chiasson, Brennan Serville and Mike Szuma will be fighting for playing time on a crowded blue line. Red shirt walk-on reserve netminder Luke Dwyer will be competing with four goaltenders on the roster.

Freshmen Profiles:

Here is a quick look at the talent coming into the program:

Michigan is adding four forwards, one defenseman and two goaltenders to their roster for this season.

Forward Andrew Copp comes to Michigan from the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP) and played with both the U-17 and U-18 squads from 2010-12. The Ann Arbor native tallied 6 points in 23 games last season. Copp is big (6’1”, 203) and plays a rugged style. He is targeted as a penalty killing specialist.

The Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) also produced one of Michigan’s recruits in 5’ 11” 189 lb forward Daniel Milne. The Unionville, Ontario product toiled for the St. Michael’s Buzzers last season and with Newmarket in 2011. He scored 62 points in 71 OJHL games. He may emerge as a surprise offensive addition.

Forward Justin Selman hails from Upper Saddle River, NJ and comes to the Wolverines from the United States Hockey League (USHL). Selman is 6’ 195 lbs. and played for Des Moines in 2011 and Sioux Falls in 2012, netting 56 points in his two seasons. He is feisty with a nose for the net.

One of the more colorful forwards Michigan will sport this season will be Cristoval “Boo” Nieves, a rangy 6’3” 200 lb. dynamo from Baldwinsville, NY. Nieves played two seasons at the Kent School in Connecticut from 2010-12. He produced 39 points in 22 games last season before graduating and moving over to the USHL’s Indiana Ice. He tallied 2-8-10 in 13 games and also was selected by the NY Rangers in the 2nd round (59th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. I am certain that he will become a fan favorite and an immediate hit with the Children of Yost. He will be counted on to add some much needed offensive support.

Jacob Trouba is the prized recruit of the class and comes to Michigan from the USNTDP and grew up in Rochester, Mi. The 6’2” 195 lb. defenseman is the anointed heir apparent to the blueline leadership once Jon Merrill moves on. Trouba is “a fast skating, hard hitting version of Jack Johnson with more discipline” according to Assistant Head Coach Billy Powers. Trouba scored 9 goals and 23 assists in 54 games last season, many of which were against division I college opposition. He took home gold at the 2012 U-18 World Junior Championships. He is a 1st round choice of the Winnipeg Jets, 9th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He’ll wear number 8 in your program, folks. Enjoy him while you can because this kid will not be at Michigan for four seasons.

The Wolverines also added two goaltenders. Steve Racine is a 6’2” 191 netminder from Williamsville, NY. and has bounced around the junior hockey circuit the last four seasons. Last season he played 15 games with Georgetown of the OJHL and won all 15 games, sporting four shutouts, a 1.66 GAA and a .938 save %. He also played in 12 USHL games with Chicago, Waterloo and Lincoln from 2009-11 with mixed results. Racine will most likely provide back-up competition for incumbent netminders Janecyk and Dwyer.

Jared Rutledge was Jacob Trouba’s netminder while with the USNTDP from 2010-12. The Chicago, Ill. native stands 5’11” and 170 lbs and is noted for his quick reflexes and nifty glove. He was 17-8-4 with four shutouts, a 2.55 GAA and a .904 save % in 33 games last season. He also won gold at the 2012 U-18 WJ Championships. He is the frontrunner for the starting goaltender position, although Berenson will most likely split the duties until a goaltender candidate emerges.

Next up: A team analysis, a review of the schedule and a CCHA preview as it enters its final season.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister

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