Michigan Hockey: Wisconsin at Michigan — Preview
Wolverines Rebound With Spartan Sweep; Home Rematch With Badgers Next
What: #12 Michigan Wolverines (12-6-2) (4-2-0-0, 3rd) Vs. #9 Wisconsin Badgers (14-7-1) (5-2-0-0, 2nd)
When: Friday 1/30 & Saturday 2/1, 6:30 p.m. (both nights) Yost Ice Arena Ann Arbor, Mi.
TV/Radio: BTN (Friday) NBC Sports Network (Saturday) & The Michigan Hockey IMG Radio Network (1050 a.m. Al Randall, Bill Trainor)
www.mgoblue.com for gametracker and streaming.
The Wolverines needed to find some confidence to get back on track in the second half of the season and leaned on their experience for it. The result was a solid sweep of the Spartans, first at JLA and then in front of a venomous crowd at Munn Ice Arena. The Thursday night victory at the Joe started auspiciously as Michigan looked flatfooted from the opening faceoff. MSU jumped on the Wolverines and popped home a rebound from their first shot of the game. Unfortunately for the Spartans, the officials lost sight of the puck and the goal was wiped off the board. Neither team dented the twine in the first period. In the second period, JT Compher got Michigan going, scoring on his own rebound to stake Michigan to a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes.
The Spartans wasted little time making things interesting, knotting the score within the first ten minutes just after the Wolverines fought off two consecutive penalties. Michigan survived that shift in momentum and carried the play for the balance of the period. Both teams had good chances to break the tie, but it was a nifty rush by defenseman Nolan DeJong that set up the game winner. DeJong intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and pushed the play into Spartan zone. Andrew Copp and Phil Di Giuseppe joined the play and directed a shot at Spartan netminder Jake Hildebrand who deflected the shot off into the corner. Copp picked it up and fired another shot that was stopped in front by a defenseman. A tangle of bodies jammed the front of the net where DiGiuseppe was stopped on a fine toe save, but then gathered the rebound and lifted it over Hildebrand with 2:17 left. Michigan held off MSU the rest of way even though the Spartans pulled the goalie with just under a minute left. Zach Nagelvoort stopped 29 shots in the win.
The following night Michigan invaded East Lansing and fell behind late in the first period on a power play goal. Compher came to the rescue, though, as he fired a backhander by Hildebrand with just: 05 left in the period. The Wolverines took the lead in the second period on the first of two Derek DeBlois goals, only to have the Spartans tie it up minutes later on another power play. Michigan outplayed the undisciplined Spartans in the final stanza, though, as DeBlois deflected home a point shot for a 3-2 lead, followed by a Mac Bennett 2×1 beauty set up by Copp. Later in the period Compher put the icing on the cake scoring his second goal of the game on a shorthanded rush. Things got chippy as Jake Chelios went after Compher shortly after and blatantly crosschecked him to the ice with less than a minute to go. It displayed the frustration the young Spartans felt after being humbled on home ice. Michigan finally returns home to take on Wisconsin next, while the Spartans travel to #1 Minnesota for a re-match with the Golden Gophers.
It has been 51 days since Michigan has played at Yost Ice Arena, the longest stretch between home games for the Wolverines since the 1962-63 season. If you factor the last time the Wolverines have played a series at Yost, it has been even longer since November 1-2, a span of three months. It is all part of the quirky scheduling that Michigan has had to deal with during the inaugural B1G Ten season. The last home game for the Wolverines was a 1-1 tie with Ferris State back in mid-December. Since then, Michigan has traveled to Detroit three times (GLI and JLA), Columbus, Madison and East Lansing, logging over 3,300 miles. The results were a bit unsavory, bringing back a 2-4 record that shook the team’s confidence. Back at Yost, though, the Wolverines are 6-1-1 (compared to 6-5-1 on the road/neutral ice) losing a tight 2-1 contest to Hockey East’s UMass-Lowell.
In other words, the team is biting at the bit to play in front of their fans again in an environment that they know will be rocking. Wisconsin knows this too and understands the value of home ice. The Badgers have had the opposite scheduling oddity where they have just ended a string of twelve straight home games- and are 13-2-1 overall at Kohl Center. Conversely, the Badgers have struggled a bit on the road, only winning once in six tries. Their home schedule has helped to guide the Badgers back from a rather poor start to post a 12-2 record since being swept by Minnesota in Minneapolis. Nonetheless, the road record is an Achilles Heel- with the only win at Miami. It has coach Mike Eaves a bit concerned about the advantage Yost brings Michigan, and the revenge the Wolverines have in mind after the Badgers sweeping them three weeks ago.
The Badgers have a bad taste in their mouths also, failing in their last series to close out the home stand in good fashion. The Buckeyes took it to Wisconsin last Saturday night. What it will do entering the series at Yost will depend on what team takes advantage of their strengths first. The Badgers are looking to carryover their momentum since they finish the conference schedule with eight of their next twelve on the road.Wisconsin has a potent offense (3.50 GPG T5th) compared to the Wolverine’s 2.85 GPG (28th). BUT, the Badgers also abandon defensive play in lieu of their offense, averaging 2.73 GA per game, (T29th). Michigan, on the other hand has a 2.30 GA average (12th) which is much stingier at home. It is strength against strength, at least when both teams are playing five on five hockey. Michigan’s PP has cooled (19.74%, 22nd) but outshines the Badger’s 15.29% conversion (46th). Wisconsin is more consistent on their PK at 83% (20th) versus Michigan’s 80.7% (37th). It is difficult to say who would have a special team’s advantage. Neither team spends much time in the penalty box. Michigan averages 11.25 MPG (38th) where Wisconsin is averaging 11.32 MPG (37th). This series could have a bit more intensity fueled by the last few minutes of their last meeting when Wisconsin seemed to pour salt in Michigan’s wounds, so we’ll see how disciplined either squad plays.
The Badgers are led by senior Michael Mersch (14-10-24) who torched the Wolverines for a hat trick in Madison. Fellow seniors Mark Zengerle (3-21-24) and Tyler Barnes (10-11-21) pace the offense. Their secondary scoring features sophomore Nic Kerdiles (8-9-17) who missed the Michigan series with an injury. (He is still questionable.) Junior Joe Labate (8-8-16) and senior fireplug Jefferson Dahl (3-13-16) also contributed heavily in the Michigan series. Freshman Grant Besse (6-4-10) had a goal and an assist also. On defense, junior Jake McCabe (6-12-18) is an NHL prospect that hits hard and jumps into the offense frequently. Seniors Joe Faust (2-9-11) and Frankie Simonelli (5-5-10) give steady minutes on the blue line along with sophomore Kevin Shulze (1-9-10).
-Michigan netminder Zach Nagelvoort (8-5-1, 1.98 GAA, .935 save %) moved up to #8 in goals against average and #4 in the country in save %. Zach rebounded nicely in the Spartan series after looking uncomfortable in Wisconsin. Steve Racine (4-1-1, 2.81 GAA, .925 save %) is clearly the #2 goaltender now.
-Compher leads the Wolverines with 20 points and tallied 3G & 2A last weekend. He was named the B1G Ten’s #1 Star of the week. Compher also leads the team with all three shorthanded goals this season. Similarly, Andrew Copp follows with 18 points including three game winning tallies. Luke Moffatt (7-7-14) has six PPG’s including two in Madison. Alex Guptill (6-8-14) and Phil Di Giuseppe (5-9-14, 25 PIM’s) each have one GWG and are starting to find their way to the net again. Derek DeBlois (4-8-12) and Tyler Motte (5-4-9) each have two GWG’s and contributed last weekend.
-Michigan’s defense has only contributed 3-25-28 on offense this season, with one GWG by Mac Bennett (2-6-8). Nothing was prettier than the move Bennett made on Hildebrand last Friday night, deking forehand before sliding a deft backhander by him.
Michigan moved up to the #12 spot after the MSU sweep. Minnesota held the #1 spot after drubbing #6 SCSU and tying Minnesota-Duluth in nonconference action last weekend. The Badgers moved down to #9 after their split with OSU. Michigan is now T11th in the PWR rankings, while the Badgers are 14th.
-Lohan’s status unknown until game time: Freshman defender Kevin Lohan may dress this weekend, depending on his on ice practice and clearance from the doctors. We’ll have to see if #24 dresses. It is just a hunch, but if his fitness level is back, he may see limited minutes against the physical Badgers.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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