By Matt Slovin –
When the Michigan hockey team meets Notre Dame this week for a rare Thursday-Friday set, it’ll do so with the services of a new leader.
Tuesday, coach Red Berenson announced that senior forward Kevin Lynch has been named an alternate captain, joining junior defenseman Mac Bennett and senior defenseman Lee Moffie as bearers of the ‘A.’
According to Berenson, it was a collective decision made by both the coaching staff and the captains, including forward A.J. Treais who wears the ‘C’ for the Wolverines.
“He’s shown that he is one of the leaders on this team, the way he’s played and the way he’s acted” Berenson said. “I think it’s important that we not just reward him, we but add him to our leadership group for the rest of the year.”
If the Wolverines are going to make a statement this weekend, one they desperately need as they are play hovering at .500 at 4-4-1, the extra leadership will most certainly come in handy.
Last season, Michigan went 3-1 against the Fighting Irish, but it’s plain to see that this is a much-improved Notre Dame team that brings with it a swagger that makes it a league contender. The last time the Fighting Irish traveled to Yost Ice Arena, the Wolverines swept them out of the CCHA Tournament quarterfinals last March.
But Notre Dame’s overwhelming amount of scoring prowess will present challenges for Michigan, which has struggled immensely in its own zone so far in league play. Junior center Anders Lee is adjusting quite nicely to life in the middle after playing left wing last year. He’s got as many points as games played this season (nine) and plays a big game.
T.J. Tynan, another junior center, could also create headaches in Ann Arbor this weekend. Though undersized, Tynan has led Notre Dame in scoring the past two seasons.
Another player to watch is Novi native and U.S. NTDP alumnus Bryan Rust. The little brother of former Wolverine Matt Rust, Bryan is currently second on the team in points scored, with six, behind Lee.
Though Bennett said last week that the expectation going into every weekend is that the Wolverines will take all six points, that task seems a lot more difficult when facing Notre Dame. It would take a tremendous amount of defensive improvement for Michigan to have a chance at winning both.
“Part is everyone buying into playing better defensively,” Berenson said. “We’ve got guys too worried about scoring goals and getting points — that’s how they measure themselves. And we measure them how they’re playing without the puck.”
The season is young, but the Wolverines have already hinted at a sense of urgency. This weekend would be the perfect time for Michigan to display that, before it digs an even bigger hole for itself to climb out of in the CCHA.
“It’s definitely hard,” Moffie said. “You picture the season going a certain way and when it starts turning for the wrong, it’s frustrating. But we’ve been here before in the past. … I’d rather have this happen early in the year than at the end.”