Record: 8-7-0, (7-2-0 Home, 1-5-0 Away)
RPI Rank: 28
Time sure does fly. When the Wolverines finish up the GLI the non-conference schedule will be over and 17 of 34 regular season games will be complete. So, where does this team stand in the tournament picture?
This section was expected to be more, but it didn't go according to plan and the Wolverines enter the break with just two wins over teams in the quality category.
The Wolverine's notched their best win when they downed the River Hawks 8-4 in Lowell. It is the only win they have on the road and the only non-conference win that they have against a team with a winning record.
Penn State is a close second, as the Nittany Lions sit at a surprising 16th in the PairWise giving Michigan their only other win over a current tournament hopeful.
The New Hampshire loss is the only loss on the schedule that can be looked at from a rankings perspective as truly bad. The Wildcats are not very good, sitting way outside the tournament picture at 45th in the RPI and they came to Yost and blew Michigan out.
Losses to Penn State, Boston University and Ferris State sting as the Wolverines lost at home to Penn State, had BU on the ropes in Boston, and lost by a goal to a Ferris team that has fallen completely out of the tournament picture.
The easy choice here is Alex Kile. With a 4-2--6 line a year ago, Kile has posted a 9-6--15 line though 15 games. He has found instant chemistry with Zach Hyman and Dylan Larkin, forming the Wolverine's most consistent scoring line this season. While Kile wasn't expected to be leading the offense at the start of the year, 20 goals has become a realistic possibility by the end of the year.
On the blueline Zach Werenski has been everything he was expected to be and more, but no one saw Cutler Martin making the kind of impact he has made. It looked like a redshirt year for Martin after he missed almost an entire year in the USHL with a concussion and came in with two defensemen ahead of him. Berenson gave Martin a shot and he never looked back, giving Michigan stability on the 3rd pairing with a physical presence and a surprising offensive output thus far.
The Wolverine blueline has improved exponentially from a year ago, looking nothing like the unit that turned the puck over 25+ times a game in the defensive zone and contributed nothing in the offensive zone. Despite the improvement there's still work to do; the group still struggles with cohesion, changing lines and pinching, allowing countless odd man rushes and breakaways on Zach Nagelvoort. If this team is going to make a postseason push, this is group must improve.
I can only imagine how much different things would be right now if Michigan had stolen that game at BU. As it is, this team has their work cut out for them moving forward. The GLI will be their last chance to get a quality non-conference win and they'll have to do it without up to 5 players, depending on who makes the World Junior roster.
Another important factor is that the Big Ten is not good this year. Minnesota is a tournament team and Penn State could find themselves in at the end of the year but Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin haven fallen into the category of wins that don't really boost your ranking and losses that kill it.
The Wolverines have dug themselves a hole that won't be easy to get out of and their margin for error get smaller with every loss. With only 6 games remaining at Yost, it's make-or-break time and it starts now.