#1/2 Michigan vs. Providence Preview

No. 1 Michigan opens the GLI with a 4:30 game against Providence today at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. How do the Wolverines match up with the Friars as they try and defend their No. 1 spot in the polls for just the second time of the season? Can they win despite significant losses to the WJC's.

After a blazing hot 16-2-0 start to the season, the No. 1-ranked Wolverines look to show the world that their ranking is no fluke. Their first opportunity to defend the lofty slot in the polls comes this weekend when the Maize and Blue skate in the 43rd annual GLI. Can the Wolverines end a drought that dates back to 1996 despite four regulars gone to skate in the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships?

Series Notes
Records: Michigan (16-2-0, 11-1-0 CCHA), Providence (6-6-2, 4-3-2 Hockey East)
Series vs. Providence: Michigan leads 2-0-0
Season Series: First Meeting
Series at the GLI: First Meeting
Series on Neutral Ice: Michigan leads 2-0-0
Last Meeting: 6-3 Michigan (10/12/2001)

U-M Offense vs. Providence Defense
F – Kevin Porter (18-11-29, +13)
F – Chad Kolarik (12-12-24, +11)
F – Aaron Palushaj (5-14-19, Even)
F – Travis Turnbull (5-4-9, +9)
F – Louie Caporusso (3-5-8, +6)

U-M Goals/Game: 4.1
U-M Shots/Game: 29.5

Providence Goals Allowed/Game: 2.5
Providence Shots Allowed/Game: 27.6

Outlook: The Michigan offense will be fun to watch this weekend. None of the top three lines remain 100% in tact with the typical GLI attrition, but the Wolverines will welcome back center Louie Caporusso after an injury kept him out of Michigan's last nine games. While he won't be enough to overcome losses like Max Pacioretty, Carl Hagelin and Matt Rust, he should help the Michigan offense put a few pucks in the net against Providence.
Advantage: Michigan

Providence Offense vs. U-M Defense
F – Jon Rheault (8-8-16, -4)
F – Pierce Norton (8-5-13, -1)
F – Kyle Laughlin (7-5-12, -1)
F – Greg Collins (3-4-7, +5)
D – Matt Taormina (5-11-16, +5)

Providence Goals/Game: 3.21
Providence Shots/Game: 35.6

U-M Goals Allowed/Game: 2.1
U-M Shots Allowed/Game: 24.3

Outlook: Despite all the losses up front, the Michigan defense remains almost entirely in tact. Whether or not they'll be able to pick up the slack, however, remains to be seen. In the end, play on the defensive side of the ice will be what determines how far Michigan goes in this tournament. Will Billy Sauer and the rest of the blue liners be able to carry the team in a few low scoring games? I think they can in this one.
Advantage: Michigan

Billy Sauer
Record: 14-2-0
GAA: 2.06
Save Percentage: .915

Bryan Hogan
Record: 2-0-0
GAA: 2.01
Save Percentage: .920

Tyler Sims
Record: 5-5-1
GAA: 2.16
Save Percentage: .917

Outlook: Each of these clubs has been pleasantly surprised with the contributions from the teams' net minders. Sauer's turnaround has been well documented, but after the past two seasons, it's hard to believe he'll maintain his edge, especially when he'll be relied on to steal a game or two this weekend.
Advantage: Push

U-M Power Play vs. Providence Penalty Kill
U-M Power Play: 21.9% (21-of-96)
U-M Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 1

Providence PK: 86.9% (53-of-61)
Providence Shorthanded Goals: 6
Providence PIM/Game: 12.6

Providence Power Play vs. U-M Penalty Kill
Providence Power Play: 24.6% (16-of-65)
Providence Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 1

U-M PK: 88.3% (91-of-103)
U-M Shorthanded Goals: 4
U-M PIM/Game: 18.1

Outlook: Providence has one of the most opportunistic penalty kill units in the nation. With six shorthanded goals, the Friars are capable of striking at anytime, despite how many people they have on the ice. With that in mind, the Wolverines skaters are more skilled, and if the Maize and Blue are responsible with the puck, this one will be another push at best for Providence.
Advantage: Push

Michigan enters the GLI with something to prove. Not only has it been over 10 years since the Maize and Blue banner was raised inside Joe Louis Arena, but the Wolverines are skating with the No. 1 spot in the polls for just the second time of the season. Watch for the Wolverines to come out fast and build a quick lead coasting into the GLI title game.
4-2 Michigan

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