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Werenski cheers on alma mater at Nationwide Arena

Defenseman remains tightly knotted to Wolverines' hockey program

by Brian Hedger JacketsInsider /

He lives in Columbus now, but Zach Werenski's ties to the University of Michigan remain tightly knotted through the Wolverines' hockey program.

After playing two years at Michigan before turning pro, Werenski is still close friends with a lot of Michigan players. In fact, he'd be part of the Wolverines' senior class had he played four years, so the connection is still rock solid.

"I text with them all the time," said Werenski, who's playing his second full NHL season with the Blue Jackets and has set a new franchise record for goals in a single season by a defenseman with 14 and counting. "I'm really close with them. I talk to the guys every week. I'll FaceTime them, Snapchat them, text them and then I check the scores every game. I check their score before I check NHL scores usually."

He won't have to check for the final score Saturday night.

The Wolverines are traveling to Columbus to play the rival Ohio State Buckeyes in a Big Ten tournament semifinal at Nationwide Arena (7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network), which Werenski will attend.

No. 11 Michigan (20-13-3) is vying for the upset against No. 6 Ohio State (23-8-5), riding a seven-game win streak that started Feb. 10 with a 3-2 victory against rival Michigan State at Little Caesar's Arena in Detroit and includes triumphs against No. 5 Notre Dame (twice), Arizona State (twice) and Wisconsin (twice).

"I'll be there on Saturday," Werenski said "I'm rooting for them. They're on a bit of a run right now, so hopefully they keep going. It makes it way easier for me, just to be here and be familiar with the arena. I'm excited for it and hopefully Michigan can get the win."

It was actually a bit of a Michigan reunion week for Werenski. Not only were his former teammates in town for a game, but he also faced two former U-M teammates this week in NHL games. Colorado Avalanche forward J.T. Compher came through Columbus on Thursday and then Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin was in Friday night.

Nationwide Arena also played host to the OHSAA state hockey tournament Friday and Saturday.

"It's a good weekend for it," Werenski said. "We [played] the Wings and then they Michigan plays Saturday night, so it's a good weekend of hockey."

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