#2 Michigan vs. #15 Minnesota Preview

No. 2 Michigan looks to complete a weekend sweep of the WCHA in tonights finale of the 15th annual College Hockey Showcase. How do the Wolverines match up with the Gophers as they try and avenge their only loss of the season. Is playing in front of the home crowd enough for Michigan to snap its six-game losing streak to the Gophers?

No. 2 Michigan looks for its first sweep at the College Hockey Showcase since beating both the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Minnesota Badgers way back in 2000-01. In the opener of the 15th annual showcase last night, the Wolverines defeated Minnesota 3-2 to get halfway towards removing that monkey. Can the Wolverines finish the job against No. 15 Minnesota later on tonight?

Series Notes
Records: Michigan (12-1-0, 8-0-0 CCHA), Minnesota (7-5-1, 3-5-0 WCHA)
Series vs. Minnesota: Minnesota leads 114-127-15
Season Series: 1-0 Minnesota
Series in Ann Arbor: 62-47-7 Michigan
Last Meeting: 4-3 Minnesota (10/13/2007)

U-M Offense vs. Minnesota Defense
F - Kevin Porter (14-6-18, +9)
F - Chad Kolarik (7-10-17, +8)
F – Max Pacioretty (3-9-12, +10)
F – Aaron Palushaj (5-8-13, -2)
F – Travis Turnbull (5-3-8, +11)

U-M Goals/Game: 4.2
U-M Shots/Game: 29.7

Minnesota Goals Allowed/Game: 2.7
Minnesota Shots Allowed/Game: 27.5

Outlook: I continue to be impressed by the dominance of the first line and the team continues to outplay opponents week after week. Michigan needs to generate chances from the second and third lines, but, if they do, the Wolverines get this advantage.
Advantage: Michigan

Minnesota Offense vs. U-M Defense
F – Blake Wheeler (5-5-10, +1)
F – Kyle Okposo (5-2-7, -6)
F – Ben Gordon (3-6-9, +1)
F – Jay Bariball (2-7-9, -5)
D – Cade Fairchild (2-5-7, +7)

Minnesota Goals/Game: 2.6
Minnesota Shots/Game: 29.5

U-M Goals Allowed/Game: 2.1
U-M Shots Allowed/Game: 24.2

Outlook: Minnesota has one of the best offenses in the nation despite the numbers. One big factor will be the status of Chris Summers. After a late injury last night, he did skate this morning and looks as if he's cleared to go. The Wolverines best skater on the blue line, he needs a great game to offset the speed up front by the Gophers.
Advantage: Push

Billy Sauer
Record: 12-1-0
GAA: 2.08
Save Percentage: .914

Jeff Frazee
Record: 5-4-0
GAA: 2.66
Save Percentage: .903

Alex Kangas
Record: 2-1-0
GAA: 2.50
Save Percentage: .908

Outlook: Despite two late goals last night, Sauer continues to impress. Minnesota's two goalies haven't been able to secure the starting job, and it won't get any easier coming to Yost Ice Arena.
Advantage: Michigan

U-M Power Play vs. Minnesota Penalty Kill
U-M Power Play: 23.9% (16-for-67)
U-M Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 0

Minnesota PK: 82.7% (43-for-52)
Minnesota Shorthanded Goals: 1
Minnesota PIM/Game: 18.5

Minnesota Power Play vs. U-M Penalty Kill
Minnesota Power Play: 12.5% (8-for-64)
Minnesota Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 4

U-M PK: 87.5% (63-for-72)
U-M Shorthanded Goals: 2
U-M PIM/Game: 18.8

Outlook: Michigan's turnaround in special teams this season has been remarkable. Minnesota's struggled on the power play this season, but in years past they've devastated the Wolverines with the man advantage. I'm still cautious here with how badly we've been burned as of late. I'll bet on the safe side and call this a push.
Advantage: Push

Michigan winning tonight would send a message that the No. 2 Wolverines are a legitimate national title contender. I expect the Wolverines to come out on fire after the loss in St. Paul, Minn., to open the season and put the Gophers on their heels right from the start.
4-3 Michigan

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