The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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72 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2016 BY ORION SANG H eading into the 2016‑17 season, the main question surrounding No. 11 Michigan was how the young Wolverines would replace the pro‑ duction of last year's wildly talented "CCM" line, which featured Kyle Connor, JT Compher and Tyler Motte — not to mention who would step in for the losses of defensemen Zach Werenski and Michael Downing. Through the first three games of the season, that question has yet to be answered clearly. Michigan had a 2‑1 record after splitting its season‑open‑ ing series against Union and escap‑ ing with a 2‑1 road victory against Ferris State. Yet, the Wolverines are still a fairly undefined bunch that could easily be looking at a worse record than they currently hold. Michigan, which was picked to fin‑ ish third in the Big Ten preseason poll, has looked good at times, but not so good at others. Undisciplined defensive play, the lack of a steady offense and too many penalties plagued the Wolverines in the season opener against Union and later in the narrow victory versus Ferris State. However, U‑M turned in what was close to a complete effort in the game sandwiched between the two, notching a 4‑0 win in its second game against the Dutchmen. So if there is a narrative to be drawn from this early part of the season, it is that the Wolverines have played in‑ consistently — perhaps expected for a team that lost so much from last year and features seven to eight freshmen that see regular ice time. Michigan dropped its season opener, 4‑3, after being outshot 40‑23 by Union. Despite being outshot and outplayed for most of the game, the Wolverines still took a 3‑2 lead late into the third period. Though U‑M had trouble estab‑ lishing a consistent attack in Union's zone, it capitalized on the few scor‑ ing chances it had. The Wolverines converted on a first‑period power play, a shorthanded breakaway op‑ portunity and a two‑on‑one in the second period. But that still wasn't enough — with close to six minutes left, Michigan faltered, giving up two late goals to the Dutchmen to take the loss. "I think even in the second [pe‑ riod], we were giving up too many Grade‑A [chances]," senior defen‑ seman Nolan De Jong said after the loss. "A lot of second and third chances within a four‑, five‑foot radius around the net — so that's something we have to improve on, something we addressed in the sec‑ ond period, but something we didn't do well enough in the third." The Wolverines cleaned up their defensive play in the following game, holding the Union attack at bay en route to the shutout victory to earn a split, perhaps showing they had learned from their mistakes in the opener. But U‑M struggled once more in its third game of the season, when it went on the road against Ferris State, nearly losing to the winless Bulldogs. The home team kept the Wolver‑ ines uncomfortable all game with an aggressive and disciplined forecheck while testing freshman netminder Jack LaFontaine all night. Michi‑ gan, though, eked out a 2‑1 victory when junior defenseman Sam Piazza scored on a late power play and La‑ Fontaine fended off several late shots in the closing minutes. "I can't tell you this was a good road game in terms of our execu‑ tion," U‑M head coach Red Berenson said after the matchup. "As a coach, you look at too many shots against, too many outnumbered rushes, too many penalties and so on. We've got to get better every week, and to‑ night was a tough game to play, but our team stayed with it. The good thing is we never got behind, and we found a way to win the game." There is still time for Michigan to figure things out on both ends of the ice. The Wolverines have received stellar performances from all three goalies that have started so far, and though there may not be a Dylan Lar‑ kin or Kyle Connor on the roster, there is still plenty of NHL‑level talent. That promise has yet to consistently perform for an extended stretch of time, but it has still won two of three games to open the year. ❏ Junior defenseman Sam Piazza found the back of the net with the puck in each of the Wolverines' first three games after entering the season with just one career goal. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL   MICHIGAN HOCKEY Young Michigan Team Continues To Search For Identity MISCELLANEOUS NOTES • Sophomore forward Cooper Ma- rody was declared academically ineligible for the first semester of the season. He is Michigan's second- leading returning scorer after tally- ing 10 goals and 14 assists last year. • Freshman forward Jake Slaker has posted one goal and two as- sists, scoring his first career goal on a power play against Ferris State. • Senior forward Alex Kile, Michi- gan's leading returning scorer, has yet to score a goal but had two as- sists against Ferris State. • Freshman forward Adam Win- borg will be eligible to play after the fifth game of the season. He was unable to play until then because he appeared in five games in the NAHL after turning 21. • Senior forward Max Shuart is tied for the second most assists in the conference with three. • Freshman forward James Sanchez had a two-goal game in Michigan's 4-0 win over Union.

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