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Michigan hockey returns against the USNTDP tonight

The Wolverines return after a 33-day lay-off for an exhibition contest.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The No. 7 Michigan Wolverines (12-7-1) return to action tonight against the U.S. National Team Development Program U-18 team (10-3) for an exhibition contest. The Wolverines have been off for 33 days and will still be without several key players due to participation in the World Juniors.

Adam Fantilli, Luke Hughes, Dylan Duke, Rutger McGroarty and Gavin Brindley will all be unavailable. However, the purpose of this mid-season exhibition game is to shake the rust off and prepare for the final stretch of Big Ten play.

The Wolverines last played a game on Dec. 12 in a 2-1 victory over Michigan State at Yost. Michigan returned to practice after the holidays on Dec. 29.

The USNTDP has played 13 D-1 teams and has accrued victories over Michigan State and Notre Dame this year, while only dropping three against Minnesota, North Dakota and Niagara.

Expect the USNTDP to come out firing. The boys in the red, white and blue feature a quartet of players averaging over one point per game: Will Smith (1.79), Gabe Perreault (1.71), Ryan Leonard (1.42) and Oliver Moore (1.32).

In net, the USNTDP primarily rotates two goalies. Michigan State commit Trey Augustine boasts an undefeated record (12-0) and an elite .930 save percentage, while Carsen Musser has struggled more at 8-4 with a .889 save percentage.

Last season, Michigan overcame a late deficit and took a 4-3 victory over the USNTDP. Much like last year, expect the Wolverines to play a different goalie every period and rotate as many players as possible to help get their legs back underneath them.

This will be a fun game for defenseman Seamus Casey, who played for the USNTDP last year against Michigan. Freshman Frankie Nazar — who has yet to debut this season for the Wolverines due to injury — scored two goals last year for the USNTDP against Michigan, but is expected to remain unavailable for this one.

In all, five Wolverines are USNTDP alumni: Casey, Nazar, Luke Hughes, Rutger McGroarty and Dylan Duke.

Keys to the Game:

  • Shake the rust off and stay healthy. This game is all about preparing for the season to properly resume next week against Ohio State and beginning the final push for the conference crowns and the NCAA Tournament.

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Yost Arena; Ann Arbor, MI