For the first time since 2016, the No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team will ship up to Ann Arbor, Michigan to take on the No. 6 University of Michigan Wolverines at home. The Terriers came out on top the last time they played at Yost Ice Arena, but fell short in the 2018 NCAA regional championship when Michigan booted them from the tournament with a final score of 6-3.
The Wolverines and Terriers have had pretty similar schedules so far, with dominant exhibition games and victories over lower ranked teams to start the season, making this weekend’s matchup both teams’ first competitive game.
“It doesn’t really matter who we’re playing,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said during his media availability on Wednesday. “We’re gonna go out and try to play the way we want to play.”
Michigan has always been a college hockey force, and recently their roster has been stacked with NHL draft picks; the 2022-23 roster boasts 12 draftees alone. Unlike the Terrier team, the Wolverines only have four seniors and are relying heavily on their huge freshman class of 12 to lead the team.
In terms of statistics, Michigan’s forward group of Adam Fantilli, Mackie Samoskevich, and Dylan Duke contribute ten of the team’s 29 individual points so far, in a group that is nothing short of offensive. In two games, the Wolverines are creating absurd amounts of production with 96 shots and ten goals to start. Including their exhibition, Michigan has 145 shots and 18 goals.
“They’re gonna make plays, but we’re going to try to limit their high quality chances,” Pandolfo said. “That’s the mindset we have to have going into this game against Michigan.”
Despite producing well offensively, the Wolverines still let five goals get past junior netminder Erik Portillo. While two games can’t define the goaltender in full, a .868 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average against Lindenwood University is worth noting.
Last to note of Michigan’s play is that with offensive production comes aggressive play and special teams. The Wolverines lag behind the Terriers in both penalty kill and powerplay percentages. Because neither team has gone up against a tough competitor yet, it should be interesting to see who ends up on top.
Michigan also underwent a head coaching change during the offseason, but unlike BU’s, the Wolverines’ was a lot less pleasant. The firing of long time head coach Mel Pearson left a hole in UM’s coaching staff to later be filled by interim head coach and former Wolverine Brandon Naurato.
In the same vein, this weekend’s competition will be the first real test for Pandolfo in his new role.
“I know it’s a tough challenge, but if we play the way we’re capable of playing, it’s going to be competitive.”
BU showed up to play in their Waterloo exhibition and while the points don’t count, the contribution from up and down the lineup continues to be seen. Freshman forward Quinn Hutson had a hat trick, the special teams made themselves known with two power-play and one short handed goal, and the team continues to get healthier.
Breaking into the lineup this weekend for his season debut is senior forward Wilmer Skoog. Skoog, who had been dealing with a collarbone injury, recorded 30 points last season with an even split of goals and assists. For someone who loves the lacrosse goal –– the Michigan –– this weekend is the perfect time to get back on the ice.
The headline going into the 2022-23 season was always focused on the veteran class, but as the season starts, it’s clear that the freshmen are here to compete. Not only is it their first away game in a Terrier jersey, but they’ll be faced by an aggressive “Children of Yost” fan section and two nearly sold-out games.
“I think this is what our guys look forward to,” Pandolfo said of Yost. “This is why you know, you play at schools like BU and Michigan. You want to play against other teams in the country that are at the top. So I think it’s fun, and I think our guys are looking forward to it.”
The weekend series will be telling for both the Terriers and the Wolverines. As both teams look to give the other its first loss, the Boston Hockey Blog will have live coverage from Ann Arbor on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @Boston.Hockey.Blog.