Posted at 6:00am -- 4/7/2011 GBMWolverine: Michigan Hockey -- Relishes Unde..."/> Posted at 6:00am -- 4/7/2011 GBMWolverine: Michigan Hockey -- Relishes Unde..."/>

GBMWolverine: Michigan Hockey — Relishes Underdog Role — Frozen Four Semi-Finals


Posted at 6:00am — 4/7/2011

GBMWolverine: Michigan Hockey — Relishes Underdog Role — Frozen Four Semi-Finals

What: NCAA Hockey Tournament Frozen Four Semifinals & Championship Game
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St.Paul, Mn.
When: Thursday April 7 & Saturday April 9
#1 Seed North Dakota (32-8-3) vs. #2 Seed Michigan (28-10-4) 8:30 p.m.
#3 Seed Minnesota Duluth (24-10-6) vs. #4 Seed Notre Dame (25-13-5) 5:30 p.m.

Winners advance to the Championship game at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday

TV: All three games will be on ESPN2 and

Bracing For A Sioux Uprising:
The Wolverines now prepare for what will probably be their largest challenge of the season, taking on the number one ranked Fighting Sioux from North Dakota. Coach Dave Hakstol has pushed the right buttons this season, with a talented, veteran squad seeking its eighth championship and first since 2000. The Sioux stormed through the WCHA, taking both the regular season and playoff championships and has rattled off a 13-0-1 record in their past fourteen games. Their last loss was at Colorado College, a 4-2 setback on January 28th. They were tied by Saint Cloud State on 2/18, but, outside of a double OT victory against Denver in the WCHA final, they have not been challenged. They finished the regular season at the top of the polls and are the odds on favorite to win it all.

When you look at UND, it is hard to imagine that this is the same team that started out the season 5-4-1. Since then, the Sioux have gone 27-4-2 without breaking much of a sweat doing it. First of all, they have not lost to a team outside of the WCHA since the lowest point in their season- a late October sweep at the hands of the Maine Black Bears. The Sioux dropped games to Denver, Minnesota, UM-D and CC to go along with a couple losses to UNO. UND also were tied by Alaska Anchorage, SCSU and Notre Dame.

Their focus has solely been on completing the march to a national title, though, as they have outscored NCAA playoff opponents 12-1 at the Midwest regional in Green Bay, Wisconsin. North Dakota can beat teams in a variety of ways, but their strength is in their depth, size, speed and experience. Hobey Baker Award Finalist (senior) Matt Frattin leads the way with an amazing 36-24-60, +28 line. He has scored three shorthanded goals to go along with his ten PP markers this season. Sophomore Corban Knight (14-30-44, +25) proved that he could keep up with his talented upperclassmen line-mates. Junior Jason Gregoire (8 PPG’s, 25-18-43, +26) is an under-rated force. Senior forwards Evan Trupp (17-24-41, +23) and Brad Malone (16-24-40, +24) are as good a second line pairing as you’ll see. Malone is big, feisty (108 PIM’s) and mean. Toss in Junior Brett Hextall (13-16-29, +24) and you have six top flight forwards with ten or more goals to go with a total of over 120 goals and 201 points.

On defense, the straw that stirs the drink is senior Chay Genoway (6-31-37, +11, 2-16-18 on the PP.) He is an assist artist and usually jumps into the play to energize the offensive rush. Stay at home blue-liners (junior) Ben Blood (2-10-12, +34) and (freshman) Derek Forbort (0-15-15, +23) are bruisers that love to play the body. Forbort played along side Michigan’s Chris Brown at the world junior tournament this past December.

The goal-tending is just as formidable, as sophomore Aaron Dell (30-6-2, 1.82 GAA & .924 save %) has secured his position from back-up (junior) Brad Eidsness (2-2-1, 4.09 GAA & .812 save %). Dell is big (6’0”, 177 lbs) and mobile and has an extremely quick glove.

Overall, the Sioux do not have many weaknesses, have the speed and skill across three lines to match or exceed Michigan, and have a very athletic blue line corps. Their roster is balanced with 13 Canadians from several provinces and 14 Americans with 9 of them from North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Sioux also boast of players from both California and Alaska.

Not Little Big Horn… but close:

If you are to compare the two teams strictly by the numbers, the summation would be that the Sioux would dominate the Wolverines. Michigan is a respectable 13th nationally in offense (3.38 gpg) where UND is 2nd at 4.14 gpg. Michigan struggles offensively unless their defense steps up into the play, or contributes on the power play. Matter of fact, the Wolverines’ blue line is responsible for scoring in half of their games totaling 108 points. If they are to be successful, that trend must continue, especially if UND shuts down the Wolverine’s top line. Carl Hagelin leads Michigan with an 18-30-48 total followed by Louie Caporusso’s 11-19-30. Jon Merrill leads the defense in scoring with a 7-17-24 line. Scooter Vaughn’s 13 goals and Kevin Lynch’s 11 goals pace the secondary scoring. On the flip side, UND’s offense is so prolific that containing it is as successful as stopping it. This is not impossible, though, as UNO did claim a 1-0 victory this season over the Sioux.

Michigan’s defensive statistics improved to 6th best at 2.26 gpg, where UND is a strong 2.14 gpg, good for 3rd best in the nation. It probably suits Michigan to lock horns with the Sioux in a defensive battle than try to out skate and outscore them. Michigan has the capability to counter attack and trap an overaggressive Sioux attack. Keeping the game close or leading would fit Michigan’s strategy at this point- much like they did against CC. It will force UND to open up and show their one vulnerability: penalties and over-aggressiveness in the offensive zone.

The real key to this game will be how well either team’s special teams capitalize on or limit the other team’s chances. Michigan is clearly a middle of the pack power play team this season averaging 18.2 conversion (27th) on their chances. They have responded in the playoffs, though, scoring a PP goal in each of the past seven straight games. UND’s power play is lethal at 23.3%, good for 7th in the country.

Stop Genoway and Frattin, and you still have to deal with a second unit as good as anybody that Michigan has faced- except for maybe CC’s first power play unit.

Michigan’s penalty kill carried them at the regionals, yielding one PPG in two games (1/13). Still, it only averages out at 83.1% (T-22nd) and has been hot and cold all season. UND on the other hand is 5th in the nation defending against opponent’s PP chances, at 86%. They also have tallied 11 shorthanded goals this season.

Both teams have a very aggressive approach to their game- yet Michigan appears to be more disciplined. They average 13.2 minutes (35th) in the box per game, where the Sioux average 14.5 minutes (21st) in the sin bin. North Dakota will try to impose their will on the sleeker Wolverines, but know better than to spend too much time killing penalties.

The cliche about goal-tending is true in the playoffs. Dell has impressive numbers buoyed by one of the best defensive groups in the country in front of him. Shawn Hunwick, though, is the epitome of the underdog, a nondescript back-up turned star that has proved that he can bring it when most everybody has counted him or his team out. His 21-8-4, 2.26 GAA and .922 save % is proof that he belongs in the limelight. He’ll again have to stand up taller than his frame to carry the Wolverines past a heavy weight.


I’ll gladly accept my medicine for predicting Michigan’s early departure to UNO in the west regional. The nice thing about it is, the team proved again that they are tougher than their pundits give them credit for. This is a different animal, though. The Sioux are on a mission to prove that they are the best team and will have extra incentive playing the Wolverines. Conversely, Michigan hasn’t shown all of their cards, either. Coach Berenson and his staff planned a masterful strategy against both UNO and CC (that is, after they got that one poor period out of their system.) I expect they will come up with a plan to neutralize UND’s top line and will force the Sioux into a patient, possession style game. The first goal will be important for Michigan, but will be deadly if UND scores early. UND is not infallible and I expect Michigan to play above the decidedly hostile, pro-UND crowd.

In the end, though, UND’s depth will wear down the Wolverines and force late errors. UND defeats Michigan for the third straight meeting in the NCAA playoffs, 3-2.

Yost Bits:

-Michigan leads the all time record against UND 45-40-5, but has lost the last two meetings in the NCAA playoffs against the Sioux after winning their first meeting at Yost in the West Regional in 1998.
-Michigan is 11-1 in their past twelve games
-Michigan returns to the Xcel Energy Center for the first time since October ’07 where the Wolverines defeated BC in OT, 4-3 on (then freshman) Louie Caporusso’s winner. It was the current senior classes’ first game.
-Shawn Hunwick is 3-1 in NCAA tourney games with a 1.59 GAA and a .938 save %.
-Carl Hagelin leads U-M in NCAA tourney points with a 3-2-5 line in eight games.
-Michigan has eight come from behind victories this season, including the dramatic 3-2 OT win versus
UNO in the West Regional.
-Michigan has scored first 26 times this season and is 21-2-3. They are 23-1-1 when preventing 2 or less goals.
-The Wolverines are 12-3in one goal games this season.
-Michigan needs one more tournament victory to tie Minnesota for first overall in total tournament wins with 50.
-Michigan, if it can get past UND, will face either Minnesota –Duluth or Notre Dame in the final. Michigan is 23-17-1against UM-D, with the last meeting being in October of 2001, a 3-2 loss. The two teams have never met in the NCAA playoffs. Michigan is 71-48-5 versus the Irish and last met the Irish in the CCHA Championship consolation game, a 4-2 win for the Maize and Blue. The Irish hold a 1-0 lead in the NCAA playoffs, a dagger plunging 5-4 OT win over the (then) #1 Wolverines in the 2008 national semi-finals.

What About The Other Game:

Minnesota-Duluth is a streaky team that rolls a couple of good lines (look for Justin Fontaine) and presses the offense, also. This is a good match-up for Notre Dame, though, that has similar talent, size and a bit of an edge in goal-tending. The game will be entertaining, close- but, just for the sake of not having to listen to the WCHA fans, (especially if both WCHA teams advance) I’ll predict a 4-3 Notre Dame victory.

Video Highlights:

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister

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