Preseason Top 16: #9
Howdy, folks. It’s that time of year again. Every so often The College Hockey Blog will be unveiling our Preseason top 16 teams, one by one. If you want to see the top 16 in order, and links to each individual preview, click the tab at the top of the page. Today’s team is #9 Michigan
Last year Michigan made the CCHA championship game, losing to Notre Dame. For their efforts they were rewarded with the #1 seed in the Bridgeport regional. But they became the first of three #1 seeds to lose to a #4, when they lost to admittedly underseeded Air Force. The Wolverines lose their best player from last year, but return a good core of players and appear once again ready to contend for the CCHA crown.
The heart of the team, captain Mike Mitera, is gone, as is Aaron Palushaj, who at 1.28 ppg (13-37–50 in 39 games) was 4th nationally. But there is reason for optimism in Ann Arbor. Leading goal scorer Louie Caporusso (24 G) is back, as is Sophomore David Wohlberg, who had a very impressive debut with 15 goals and 30 points. Matt Rust, who contributed to the US World Junior team, is back and so is leading blueline scorer Chad Langlais (6-18–24).
But perhaps Wolverine fans’ biggest reason for hope is in net. Goalie Billy Sauer, who had his good games but will be more remembered for his blowups, has graduated, and will be replaced by Bryan Hogan. Michigan was the 4th best defensive team in college hockey last year, partly a byproduct of being in the low scoring CCHA, but partly because of Bryan Hogan, who was 7th nationally in GAA. He was way down there in save percentage but watching a few Wolverines games last year you could tell the defensemen played more confidently ahead of Hogan than they did ahead of Sauer.
Michigan has a very intriguing non-conference schedule, including a game with defending champion Boston University, Minnesota and Wisconsin in the college hockey showcase, and then at Wisconsin again in the Camp Randall Classic. Those games could help boost Michigan’s RPI come tournament time and might make the difference between a #1 and #2 seed.