CCHA Championship Preview: Michigan vs. ND

After dispatching of No. 11 Michigan State 5-2 last night in the final CCHA Tournament semifinal contest last night, the No. 9-ranked Wolverines now take aim at No. 1 Notre Dame. Read on for GBW's breakdown of the CCHA title game.

After dispatching of the No. 11 Michigan State Spartans 5-2 last night, it's onto the CCHA Championship for the Michigan Wolverines. No. 1-ranked Notre Dame awaits Michigan after knocking off Lake Superior State 3-0 in the first semifinal last night, and Michigan and Notre Dame is a match up that the Wolverines must have been chomping at the bit for.

Notre Dame swept the Wolverines in their only two meetings this season, but it was a Michigan team decimated by injuries at the time. Jack Johnson, Jason Dest and Steve Kampfer all missed the weekend series, and Andrew Cogliano missed the second game of the weekend to try out for the Canadian World Junior team.

Series Notes: Series vs. ND: 64-41-5 Michigan
Season Series: 2-0-0 Notre Dame
Neutral Ice Meetings: 7-1-0 Michigan
In the CCHA Playoffs: 6-3-0 Michigan
In the CCHA Championship: No Record

U-M Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
F - T.J. Hensick (21-44-65)
F - Kevin Porter (22-33-55)
F - Andrew Cogliano (23-25-48)
F - Chad Kolarik (18-30-48)
D - Jack Johnson (16-20-36)

U-M Goals/Game: 4.30 (1st CCHA)
U-M Shots/Game: 32.1

Notre Dame Goals Allowed/Game: 1.7 (1st CCHA)
Notre Dame Shots Allowed/Game: 22.5

Outlook: A classic case of the unstoppable force clashing with the immovable object. The U-M offense is one of, if not, the most explosive offense in the nation. With four scorers above the 40 point mark, Michigan has people capable of putting the puck into the net all over the ice. Notre Dame, on the other hand, brings in the nations top defense. David Brown leads the nation in goals against average and won the CCHA Player of the Year Award earlier this week. Hensick and Cogliano are both faster centers than anyone the Irish have seen all year, and could provide match up problems up the center of the ice for the Irish.

Advantage: Slight Advantage to Michigan

Notre Dame Offense vs. U-M Defense
F – Erik Condra (13-33-46)
F – Kevin Deeth (17-21-38)
F – Ryan Thang (18-20-38)
F – Mark Van Guilder (18-16-34)
F – Garrett Regan (14-11-25)

Notre Dame Goals/Game: 3.50 (3rd CCHA)
Notre Dame Shots/Game: 28.8

UM Goals Allowed/Game: 3.08 (7th CCHA)
UM Shots Allowed/Game: 29.0

Outlook: This match up could very well determine the game. Notre Dame doesn't make a lot of mistakes on offense, and will put the puck in the net if Michigan doesn't maintain possession inside their own defensive zone. With that in mind, the Irish offense isn't the most explosive in the conference. Notre Dame relies on their defense to keep them in the games until the offense can bury their opponents off their own mistakes. If Michigan can avoid mistakes, it will look good for the Maize and Blue

Advantage: Push

Billy Sauer
Record: 25-12-1
GAA: 2.95
Save %: .899

Notre Dame
David Brown
Record: 28-5-3
GAA: 1.60
Save %: .929

Outlook: Goalie is Notre Dame's biggest advantage in tonight's contest. David Brown has been the best goalie in the nation all season long, and is considered the favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award in St. Louis. Sauer has been improving, but he isn't on Brown's level yet and still has some issues with his glove and controlling rebounds.

Advantage: Notre Dame

U-M Power Play vs. Notre Dame Penalty Kill
U-M PP: 17.7% (6th CCHA, 41 of 232)
U-M SHG Allowed: 11

Notre Dame PK: 90.8% (1st CCHA, 177 of 195)
Notre Dame SHG Scored: 6
Notre Dame PIM: 13.3

Outlook: Michigan has been inconsistent on the power play all season. Hensick, Porter and Cogliano all posses the skill to be lethal with the man advantage, but it hasn't all clicked on a night in and night out basis. Notre Dame has had one of the most consistent penalty killing teams in the nation. Jeff Jackson has prided himself on special teams since coming to South Bend, and the Irish penalty kill is one of their main reasons for their turnaround in just two seasons. Michigan needs to at least maintain possession of the puck on the power play and possibly put one or two in the net to get a leg up in tonight's contest.

Advantage: Slight Advantage to Notre Dame

Notre Dame Power Play vs. U-M Penalty Kill
Notre Dame PP: 19.5% (1st CCHA, 44 of 226)
Notre Dame SHG Allowed: 3

U-M PK: 81.5% (9th CCHA, 180 of 222)
U-M SHG Scored: 14
U-M PIM: 17.2

Outlook: Notre Dame has the top power play percentage in the CCHA, but the Wolverines penalty kill is streaky and was good last night. If Michigan can maintain that momentum and keep the game at five-on-five, the Wolverines will have a tremendous edge.

Advantage: Push

Keys to the Game:
1. Don't fall behind. Notre Dame is one of the best teams in the nation at capitalizing on mistakes of the opposition. If Michigan starts to fall behind and starts to force things, that plays right into Notre Dame's hands.

2. Avoid the penalty box. One of Notre Dame's biggest advantages tonight is special teams. U-M can't afford to give the Irish a lot of power play opportunities or they'll eventually take advantage of it.

3. Leaders need to lead. T.J. Hensick has carried Michigan thus far through the CCHA tournament. He'll need to keep it up, along with get strong games from captain Matt Hunwick and sophomore Jack Johnson to give Michigan the advantage in tonights game.

This is a much different Michigan team than the one the Irish saw in early December. Both teams are playing with confidence, but the Wolverines offense has been on fire as of late and Sauer has made the saves he needs to between the pipes. Hensick and Cogliano cause too much of a match up problem up the middle, and Michigan upsets No. 1 Notre Dame.
Michigan - 4, Notre Dame - 2

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