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Michigan - New Hampshire Preview

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The Wolverines welcome New Hampshire to Yost for the 2014 home opener

Gregory Shamus

Who: New Hampshire at #10 Michigan

Where: Yost Ice Arena

When: 10-17-14, Comcast 900. 10-18-14, BTN Plus. 7:35pm.

About New Hampshire

Dick Umile returns for his 25th season behind the New Hampshire bench, guiding a team hit by significant attrition in the offseason. The Wildcats are hoping a young team missing key players can avoid missing the postseason for the second consecutive year.

When these two teams met last season in New Hampshire, Michigan got their first look at Zach Nagelvoort after Steve Racine left the game with a groin injury leaving the Granite State with a win and a tie.

Offensive Zone

If the first three games are any indication of what's to come, the new look Wolverines will forge their identity this season with a physical, grinding style of hockey that fans have been hoping for. After years of finesse hockey, the Wolverines have started 2014 getting to the net, grinding out possessions and crashing the crease. Dylan Larkin has been as advertised centering the 2nd line and the coaching staff seems comfortable rolling all four lines for three periods.

The Wildcats lost the core of their back end graduating seniors Eric Knodel and Justin Agosta, while also losing Trevor Van Riemsdyk to the NHL and goaltender Casey DeSmith to an off-ice incident. The blueline is talented but young, paced by junior standout Brett Pesce. In net the Wildcats turn to Adam Clark, a 21 year old freshman from the BCHL.

Look for Dexter Dancs to have a huge series this weekend. As a player who is not afraid to go hard to the net and earn two minutes in the box, Dancs can play a huge role in the series by playing hard around Adam Clark early and stopping him from getting in rhythm.

Defensive Zone

Michigan's blueline struggles weren't going to fix themselves by the first game and it showed against Ferris State and NTDP that those issues are still there. Unforced errors and turnovers have been the story so far, leaving Zach Nagelvoort alone to defend breakaways on multiple occasions in the first two games.

Like Larkin, Zach Werenski has been everything the Wolverines hoped he would be and Kevin Lohan has been another bright spot. The rest of the blueline has not gotten off to the start that they wanted and to have a fully cohesive unit, Michigan needs Mike Downing to be the #1 defenseman. A New Hampshire team struggling to replace departed scoring is what this blueline needs to get moving in the right direction.

The Wildcats lost a big percentage of their scoring from last season losing seniors Kevin Goumas and Nick Sorkin to graduation and have had some trouble scoring, with a 1 goal effort against Union and a two goal night against St. Francis Xavier.

While an offensive unit struggling to find their identity is what Michigan's blueline needs, a Wolverine defensive unit without an identity of their own is just what the Wildcats need to fix their own problems. Senior Matt Willows leads a group of quick, transition minded forwards who can get out in space and make things difficult for a Wolverine team that struggles with assignments and transition responsibilities.

Outlook

Momentum will be the key for both teams this weekend. If Michigan tightens up and limits turnovers they should have a relatively easy weekend, but a Wildcat squad that can pressure the Michigan blueline early and build some confidence can leave Yost with a win.