ANN ARBOR – Michigan hockey hasn’t had a lot to brag about this season.
But after a sweep of Ohio State last weekend for it’s second sweep of the month, the Wolverines finished with a 4-2 record in February. Even their classmates on the basketball team can’t boast that after they finished the month at 3-4.
Now, as Michigan prepares for another senior night, it does so needing an even better month of March. The Wolverines will host Ferris State this weekend, needing a sweep to have any shot of hosting a playoff game in the CCHA playoffs next week.
“We saw a little bit of (playoff hockey) but we’re not there yet,” Berenson said. “If we’re going to have any chance of getting to Joe Louis (Arena for the CCHA semifinals), that was a step in the right direction. It was important that we do something on the road.”
The matchup will also be the last time both teams compete as CCHA opponents in the regular season.
Ferris State, tied for fourth in the CCHA, also needs a win to secure a home-ice advantage in the playoffs. The Bulldogs (13-11-2, 15-13-4) grabbed four points in December, defeating Michigan 5-0 the first night before falling in overtime the next.
“That series (against Ferris State) was part of our worst part of our season,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. The way we approach this (first) game — this game is the weekend.”
Two 24-point scorers, left-wingers Kyle Bonis and Garrett Thompson, lead the Bulldogs this season. Bonis, a Hobey Baker nominee, has 17 goals.
Ferris State boasts a strong special-teams this season, ranking 12th nationally on the power kill, capitalizing on 21.4 percent of extra-man opportunities, and 13th in the penalty kill, killing off 85.3 percent of penalties.
Freshman netminder Steve Racine will likely be called upon to turn away Bonnis and the Bulldogs. Racine’s two wins gives him the most wins this season (six wins and two ties), but he is second on the team with a .892 save percentage.
The Wolverines’ defense in front of their goalie continues to be an issue, though. Michigan ranks 57th nationally in goals allowed per game at 3.59 per contest.
The Wolverines are led by a pair of rejuvenated sophomore forwards for scoring — Alex Guptill and Phil Di Giuseppe. The tandem combined for five goals and two assists last weekend after struggling to repeat their numbers from strong seasons last year.
The Wolverines are hoping that senior captain A.J. Treais’s presence can be a bit bigger in his last regular season games of his career. The Bloomfield Hills native has been one of Michigan’s leading scorers during his 157-game career, but has scored just one goal in 2013. Treais had one goal in the final game against Ferris State, though, and will look to recreate the magic that former Wolverine Carl Hagelin did in his senior night with the game-tying goal and game-winning goal.
“When you’re a young player, you think (Carl’s performance) happens to somebody else,” Berenson said. “You never know what’s going to happen to you. Then you realize this is your time.
“I can tell you as a team we’re not going to talk about (senior night) a lot. We want to have a good weekend for our team and our seniors.”
Seniors Lee Moffie and Kevin Lynch will also look contribute in their final series, despite producing inconsistent numbers this season.
Lynch, a Gross Pointe native, will continue his role as a facilitator this weekend. His seven assists in eight games are among the team’s best, thanks to a strong line with forwards Cristoval “Boo” Nieves and Di Giuseppe.
Michigan will not reap all the benefits of home ice, though, having to do without their student section, The Children of Yost, who will be away on spring break.
But none of the seniors are reminiscing or feeling nostalgia entering this weekend – the focus remains on wining.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like,” Moffie said. “It’s going to be sad. We don’t really like to talk about it – guys in my class. It’s gone by so fast.
“It’s our last games at Yost, if we can end up with two wins, it’ll be really nice.”