Posted at 6:00am -- 4/9/2011 GBMWolverine: Michigan Hockey -- Sioux-perb! -..."/> Posted at 6:00am -- 4/9/2011 GBMWolverine: Michigan Hockey -- Sioux-perb! -..."/>

GBMWolverine: Michigan Hockey — Sioux-perb! — Wolverine Icers Hold Off UND 2-0 — Move to Title Game


Posted at 6:00am — 4/9/2011

GBMWolverine: Michigan Hockey — Sioux-perb! — Wolverine Icers Hold Off UND 2-0 — Move to Title Game

What: NCAA Hockey Tournament National Championship Game
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St.Paul, Mn.
When: Saturday April 9, 7:00 p.m. EDT
Who: #2 Michigan (29-10-4) vs. #3 Minnesota-Duluth (25-10-6)
TV: ESPN2 and

Rewinding Michigan’s Previous Action:

The Maize and Blue rode a Ben Winnett rebound goal in the first period coupled with outstanding goal-tending by Shawn Hunwick to outlast North Dakota 2-0 on Thursday night. The first period was fairly back and forth with UND enjoying two of their four power play opportunities. It was Michigan, though, that struck first, as Jon Merrill lifted a screened point shot through traffic that clipped the crossbar and bounced back into the slot. A scramble followed, and, after Luke Glendening kept the play alive battling in front, Ben Winnett swooped in, had his initial effort blocked, regained the puck and fired it just under the crossbar from a few feet out to give the Wolverines the lead at 13:26.

From that point forward it was all North Dakota, as they swarmed the Michigan zone. Michigan survived the first period being out-shot 14-10 and skated off with the 1-0 lead. That margin held up despite several forced errors in the Michigan zone created point blank opportunities that Hunwick stopped. He stoned 60 point scorer Matt Frattin from the slot in the second period, just getting a glove on the bullet, deflecting it off the outside of the post. He robbed Brad Malone twice with pad saves, and Chay Genoway on rushes through the slot. UND out-shot Michigan 26-10 in the last two periods yet could not dent Hunwick or the stout Michigan defense. UND was clearly the faster, more talented team-but Michigan played a smart chip and chase style and clogged up the neutral zone in an attempt to force UND to dump the puck in also. UND did just that, and forced several turnovers that Michigan was able to recover. The Sioux used their speed to gain entry and go around the Michigan defense only to have their passing lanes clogged. Michigan fought off a PP chance with just under nine minutes left then basically closed down any effort to move the puck offensively.

UND pulled their net-minder, Aaron Dell with just over a minute to go and saw several excellent chances sail wide or get blocked. Finally, a last effort shot was blocked by senior captain Carl Hagelin and skated out by assistant captain Louie Caporusso. He fed a streaking Scooter Vaughn who buried an empty net goal to start the celebration for the Wolverines and their fans. Michigan had upset perhaps the best team in college hockey and will now play for its tenth national championship title, and first finals appearance since 1998. Hunwick stopped 40 shots and earned his fourth shutout of the season. The Wolverines were physical, but clearly over-matched offensively-but got the all important first goal and rode it to victory.

Yostmeister Three Stars of the Game:

1. Shawn Hunwick – Michigan – a championship performance against an outstanding team
2. Ben Winnett – Michigan – potted his fourth goal of the season-the huge GWG
3. Matt Rust – perhaps the best Wolverine player on the ice last night other than Hunwick

Who Are Da Duloot Bulldogs?

Minnesota-Duluth finished fourth in the WCHA, behind UNO, Denver and UND. They came into the NCAA playoffs as a second seed out of the East Regional and defeated ECACHL regular season champion Union 2-0 and then took out top ranked and ECACHL playoff champion Yale 5-3. They defeated Notre Dame 4-3 on Thursday night to reach the title game.

The Bulldogs’ resume’ includes victories this season over top ranked UND, Denver and UNO. They began the season on an eight game unbeaten string which included a tie with Lake Superior State and a victory over NMU from the CCHA. From that point, though, they were rather inconsistent with their losses scattered to teams like UND (2), Denver, UNO, Minnesota, Wisconsin, SCSU, Minnesota State, CC and a devastating 3-2 OT loss to Bemidji State in the WCHA Final Five tournament.

Scott Sandelin’s team hasn’t made a Frozen Four appearance since 2004 and is eager to attempt to win its first national championship in the program’s history. UM-D is 2-3 overall in the Frozen Four, dropping games to Bowling Green in the 1984 championship, and to RPI (in Detroit) in the 1985 title game with a team that featured future HOFer and Detroit Red Wing, Brett Hull. They also lost to Denver in their last appearance, 5-3.

Another Dangerous Offensive Squad:

Duluth’s depth and offensive strengths are not as deep as North Dakota’s, but it is still pretty potent. They are led by two solid scoring lines featuring senior Justin Fontaine (22-36-58) and a pair of junior forwards: Jack Connolly (18-41-59) and Mike Connolly (28-26-54). All three garnered WCHA first or second team honors. Ironically, they are not related as Fontaine and Mike Connolly are from Canada, where Jack Connolly hails from Minnesota. In all, seven Canadians dot the roster along with seventeen Minnesotans (three from Duluth.) Jack Connolly is 3rd overall in NCAA scoring, with Fontaine 4th and Mike Connolly tied for 6th. Freshman JT Brown (16-20-36) and junior Travis Oleksuk (13-18-31) round out the top five forwards which combined for 97 of the 140 goals the Bulldogs tallied this season so far. Brown is 8th overall in the NCAA in rookie scoring.

Carolina Hurricane’s draftee freshman Justin Faulk (8-25-33) is an offensive minded blue-liner that adds punch to their deadly power play. Faulk came from the USNDT program. Of the seven NHL draftees on the squad, four of them guard the blue line. Three other defensemen are seniors, including U-18 development team graduate, Trent Palm.

Goal-tending is mostly handled by junior Kenny Reiter (15-7-5, 2.32 GAA & .914 save %. Reiter earned three shutouts this season, including the NCAA East Region semi final victory over Union. His save percentage is 24th best and his goals against average are 18th best in the country. He was spelled this season by freshman Aaron Crandell (10-3-1, 2.79 GAA & .894 save %.) Reiter is steady, but relies on his talented defensive corps to minimize opponent scoring chances.

Tale Of The Tape:

Michigan’s defensive statistics remain 6th best at 2.21 gpg, where UM-D is 17th at 2.59 gpg. Michigan has an opportunity to exploit a team that is not as defensive minded, although their back line is very good.

The Bulldogs enjoy a slight offensive edge, averaging 3.41 gpg, or 11th in the nation. Michigan sits at 16th best with their average at 3.35 gpg. If Michigan can force the same results as they have in their past two games, they should be successful- at least five on five. The key is to stop the Bulldog’s top line, much like they did against UND’s “Pony Express” line featuring Frattin, Malone and Knight- who collectively were -2 on the night.

The real area that Michigan needs to stop is the Minnesota Duluth powerplay, which has carried them in the NCAA playoffs. Faulk has a huge shot from the point, and UM-D has several finishers. The Wolverines stopped UND (0-4), but will have as tall an order with UM-D. Michigan checks in with an 83.4% kill rate on their PK (21st), while Duluth is 27th at 82.2%. The big difference though is that Duluth is 7th overall in the PP (23.3%) and Michigan is 27th at 18.1%. I’ll take a draw on this trade-off and take my chances 5×5, if I were the Wolverines.

Michigan holds the edge in discipline, ranked 35th in the country at 13.2 PIM’s per game. Duluth is not as disciplined, gambling on their physical style to create offense. They rank 15th in penalty time, averaging 14.9 minutes per game. It would be a bonus for the Wolverines to score on the PP.

Overall, Michigan holds the 7th best scoring margin in the country, with a 1.14 differential between their offensive numbers and their defensive numbers. Duluth is 9th in scoring margin at .83, buoyed by their strong offense. I like the Wolverine’s chances at shutting down Minnesota Duluth and scratching out enough offense to win. Michigan’s goal differential is 144-95, or +49. UM-D’s is 140-106, or +44. Very close, although I’ll take our defensive strength in this statistic.

Shawn Hunwick’s performance against UND will be difficult to duplicate, but I’ll take something close. He moved to 22-8-4 with a 2.19 GAA (8th overall) and a .925 save % (7th overall). If you just look at the NCAA playoffs though, Shawn has only yielded three goals in three games and has a save percentage over .935 which is phenomenal. I think Michigan has a clear edge here. Hunwick is also 9th overall in shutouts with four.

Other Yost-bit factors to consider:

– Minnesota Duluth will enjoy a clear home ice advantage in St.Paul. This reminds me of 1998 when Michigan defeated UNH AND Boston College in Boston to win the championship. Ironically, both the 1998 and 1996 national championship teams shut out their semi-final opponents…. much like Michigan did Thursday night.
– Minnesota Duluth is 10-2-1 against non-conference foes and takes a 3-1 neutral site record into this match-up.
– Red Berenson is 2-0 in the national championship game
– Michigan could become the #1 team in NCAA tournament wins moving past Minnesota with 51, if they win their NCAA leading 10th national title.
– Minnesota Duluth last defeated Michigan in the 2001 Maverick Stampede tournament in Omaha, 3-2. Michigan last beat UM-D 6-5 in 1981. This is their first ever NCAA tourney meeting.
– Regardless of the outcome, this will be the last game for seven Michigan seniors and five UM-D seniors.
– Brandon Burlon will still remain a coach’s decision and did not play in Thursday’s game. It will difficult to supplant the same line-up that throttled UND.
– Michigan will have to be a bit more disciplined than they were against UND- with a couple calls made by Hockey East officiating that occurred after the whistle, and/or due to over-aggressiveness.


Once again, I’ll gladly accept my medicine for predicting Michigan’s demise against UND. Michigan proved that it could protect a lead (finally) this season during these playoffs. I don’t want to go to that well too much- Hunwick can only do so much with such little offense and UM-D will have their chances. BUT, I also do not want to jinx the reverse luck I am channeling (okay… work with me, here.) If Michigan can neutralize the Bulldog attack and frustrate them as they did to UND, I like the Maize and Blue’s chances. The real key will be to keep UM-D off the powerplay. They beat Union and Yale successfully with it- and their style mimicked the same defensive style Michigan is using.

My heart says … Michigan. Even my mind says it. But for the sake of karma … Minnesota Duluth 3, Michigan 2 in OT.

Please … get that medicine out for me one last time. I’ll take it before the party at Yost.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister

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