Dec. 9, 2013
On Wednesday, Dec. 11, No. 3 Michigan (10-2-1) will welcome No. 4 Ferris State (13-2-2) to Yost Ice Arena for the 104th meeting between the two schools. The upcoming edition of a long-standing, in-state rivalry will be special for one Wolverine forward in particular, as freshman Tyler Motte will play against his older brother CJ, the junior starting net minder for the Bulldogs, for the first time in his hockey career.
For Tyler, growing up with a goalie for an older brother was a unique experience.
"We'd shoot around and play in the basement all the time," Motte said. "He'd throw the gear on, and I'd rip some pucks at him, just to work on some things. It kind of worked out pretty well for both of us growing up."
Things have continued to work out well for both Motte brothers. Tyler is off to a hot start in Maize and Blue, posting five goals and seven points in his first 13 career games. A mainstay among Michigan's top six forwards, he had his first breakthrough in the team's fourth regular-season contest, scoring the game-winner in overtime to complete a sweep at the University of New Hampshire. While Tyler's impact on the game is measured in goals and points, CJ's impact can be measured in saves.
The junior goalie has posted excellent numbers in his three years in Big Rapids, earning a career 2.23 goals-against average to go along with a stellar .925 save percentage. CJ holds a 31-20-9 record in 60 starts. Despite his impressive numbers, the elder Motte has beaten the Wolverines just once in regulation in five career starts against them.
Michigan leads the all-time series, 68-29-6, and while Tyler hopes to do whatever he can to help U-M continue its recent winning ways against Ferris State, he knows that one man won't make the difference when the two teams face off on Wednesday.
"I think if we stick to our system as a team we'll play just fine," Motte said, "(CJ) and I are just looking at it as another game."
The matchup has historical implications, too. Since 1981-82, the Wolverines and Bulldogs have scheduled each other at least twice during each campaign. That streak comes to an end this year, as Wednesday's game is the only time U-M and Ferris State will play each other during the 2013-14 regular season.
"I'm sure my parents are happy it's just one game," Motte said.
Tyler credits his parents, Steve and Nancy Motte, with unending support for him and his brother, who have taken very different paths to play hockey at this level.
"They've been behind us all our lives," Tyler said.
CJ played for the Traverse City North Stars of the NAHL and the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL before signing his letter of intent with Ferris State. Before committing to Michigan, Tyler played for the United States National Team Development Program right here in Ann Arbor, but he says his parents, who are both teachers by trade, supported both sons in their endeavors despite drastically different experiences.
"When it came to choosing a school or a place to be, they supported that decision. They didn't try and push us one way or another," Tyler said, "They looked at where we were comfortable, and they were there for us."
The Motte brothers will have "over 100" friends and family in attendance on Wednesday night, mostly from the Michigan area.
The puck drops between Michigan and Ferris State at 7 p.m., and the game will be televised on Fox Sports Detroit.