Michigan Hockey Preview
September 20, 2017
University of Michigan Ice Hockey
Ann Arbor, MI
Content Contributor: Casey Campbell
Michigan Begins New Era in Hockey
The Michigan Hockey team has had a lot of history and has won championships over the years with Red Berenson as head coach of Michigan for over a quarter of a century. But, it's the beginning of a new era as Berenson retired last season after 26 seasons at the helm for the maize and blue. Long time Berenson assistant Mel Pearson was named head coach and is excited to take over and put his own stamp on Michigan Hockey. “I’m Excited!” Pearson said. “We’ve only been on the ice for two weeks for about two hours per week so it doesn't give you a lot of time but I’ve seen some improvement on the ice from the guys. We are excited and really want to play some games,” Pearson stated.
Michigan enters the 2017-18 hockey season with huge expectations and key returners willing to make a difference for Michigan this season. Will Lockwood looks to have a great year for the Wolverines this season coming off an 8 goal season with 12 assists. He likes the new vibe that coach Mel Pearson has brought to the team. “There is a great mood around the locker room and Mel has brought a lot of new energy and chemistry around the team so it's been great,” Lockwood said. Also returning this year is forward Cooper Marody, who is looking for a breakout year entering in his junior season. “This is a big year for Cooper. When he played the second half the year after missing the first half of the season he was awesome,” Pearson said. “I have been very pleased with his play to this point. I have been very impressed with his work ethic and if he can keep his work ethic up, he can be an all conference player. So the sky's the limit with Cooper,” Pearson continued. Marody finished the season with 15 points in 18 games last season.
There are also some talented freshmen coming in for Michigan this season including Josh Norris who played for the U-18 team last season in Plymouth and was already drafted by the San Jose Sharks. He had 14 goals and 13 assists last year for the U.S. developmental team so look for Josh to have an impact on Michigan this season. Quinn Hughes is a defenseman who also will provide toughness for the Wolverines this season. He had 38 assists last year for the U.S. developmental team last season. Dakota Rabbe is a very talented forward who can get pucks in the net, and he will be a major force on the offensive side of the puck. He scored 22 goals and had 36 assists on his junior team the Wenatchee Wild last season. Michael Pastujov had a total of 18 points last season for the U.S. developmental team. He looks to join his brother Nick on the team this season, and looks to make his presence known to the Wolverines this season.
There will also be an interesting battle at the goaltending position this season for the Wolverines. Chad Catt, Hayden Lavigne and Jack Lafontaine all look to be the starter this season. “I see it as a friendly competition,” said Jack Lafontaine. “We all want to push each other to do our best so I think it will be a good battle and it will raise all of our games,” Lafontaine continued. All 3 will be trying to replace Zach Nagelvoort who went 33-26-6 last year as Michigan’s goaltender.
Overall, it's going to be an interesting season for Michigan this year. The Big Ten coaches ranked Michigan 6th out of 7 teams in Big Ten hockey conference this year. Pearson takes it as a challenge and motivation to do better. “That's how they view us and that’s their opinion, so we are out there to prove them wrong,” Pearson said. “We have a lot to prove and we can’t worry about what the other coaches think. We are concerned about how we play and getting better every day. But, it's extra motivation for sure,” Pearson said. The Big Ten Hockey Conference will also welcome Notre Dame this year, and Pearson is excited to have the Irish in the Big Ten Hockey Conference.
Michigan’s first game is an exhibition game against Western Ontario on September 30th. They open the regular season at St. Lawrence on October 6th. Their regular season opener is October 20th against Vermont, and the Big Ten Conference Opener is October 27th when Michigan travels to Penn State.