The Big Ten schedule was announced back in May, and now we have finally seen the full 2014-2015 hockey schedule for our Michigan Wolverines. I won't go over all of the Big Ten games again here; I'll just let that little Must Reads window down there do the talking. Hey, I wrote that piece, too! Pretty convenient, eh?
So, what does the non-conference portion look like for the Wolverines? Well, it looks like this, silly...
|10/4||at Ferris State (29-11-3)||Big Rapids, MI|
|10/6||US Under-18 (exhibition)||Yost|
|10/9||Wilfrid Laurier (exhibition)||Yost|
|10/17-18||New Hampshire (22-18-1)||Yost|
|10/24||at UMass-Lowell (25-10-4)||Lowell, MA|
|10/25||at Boston University (10-21-4)||Boston, MA|
|10/31-11/1||at Michigan Tech (14-19-7)||Houghton, MI|
|11/14-15||American International (10-25-1)||Yost|
|12/13||at Boston College (28-8-4)||Chestnut Hill, MA|
|12/28 (Great Lakes Invitational)||Michigan Tech||Joe Louis Arena, Detroit|
What should we expect?
First of all, let's open an old wound and recall that Michigan lost their exhibition game against the Under-18s last year, but that was in December. This year's match-up is at the beginning of the season and should allow for the fresh legs of the Wolverines to take advantage. I hope. Their other exhibition game is against Wilfrid Laurier University. Who? I have no idea. Then I looked 'em up. Back in the day, the hockey team was called the Ice Mules, while the women's athletics teams were called Mulettes. Only in Canada.
Okay, now to the real stuff. In amongst the non-con portion of Michigan's schedule are three teams from last year's Frozen Four--Ferris State, UMass-Lowell, and Boston College. The good news is that Michigan went 2-1 against those teams last year, including the 2-2 shootout win against Ferris State that is technically a tie.
Also reappearing on the Wolverines' schedule for the 2014 season are the New Hampshire Wildcats and the Boston College Terriers. Michigan beat BU in their lone contest last year and beat UNH 3-2 in their second game, after skating to a 1-1 tie in the first.
I should also point out that, unlike last year, Michigan will have a nice home stand in November. With seven consecutive games at Yost Ice Arena, a head of steam may be built up heading into the final game before the Christmas break against Boston College. Even a 5-2 record in that span sets them up nicely before the Great Lakes Invitational on December 28, which is the final non-con match-ups against Michigan Tech and potentially against Ferris State a second time this season. And let's face it, anything would be better than what happened during last year's GLI.
There has been one key player departure that Michigan may struggle to replace. Mac Bennett is now a part of the Montreal Canadiens system (check out a quick interview with him here). Bennett's departure leaves a young defense on the ice, with only three seniors led by Mike Chiasson and Brennan Serville. Mike Szuma did not play in 2013. Add newcomer Grosse Pointe defenseman Zach Werenski to the mix (stories here and here), and things could be taking quite a nice turn for Michigan. Even with the youth, leadership will not be in short supply. With Andrew Copp being named captain, along with JT Compher and Zach Hyman names as alternates, the Wolverines' captains will bring a combined 43 goals and 44 assists; this could be a powerful trio of role models.
Perhaps the biggest question going into the 2014 season is--how will Michigan play against the Penn State Nittany Lions? Oh, god, it must be better than they did last year. Looking at the entire schedule, I think that 20-23 wins leading into a trip to the Big Ten Tournament--and a spot in the Frozen Four--is in the cards for Red Berenson, who is probably coaching his last season for the Maize and Blue.
So get excited, dear reader, not only is football just around the corner, but many of the weekends will be sweetened with some great hockey as well.