#1 Michigan vs. Western Michigan Preview

The No. 1-ranked Michigan hockey team gets back into conference play with a home-and-home series with the Western Michigan Broncos this weekend. How do the Wolverines match up with the Western Michigan Broncos as they look to tighten their grip on the top spot in the conference with a pair of wins from a school just down the road.

Michigan's first action against the CCHA in the second half of the season starts tonight as the No. 1-ranked Wolverines host Western Michigan for the front-end of a weekend home-and-home series tonight at Yost Ice Arena. How do the top-ranked Wolverines match up against the Broncos as they try to maintain their lead on the Miami RedHawks in both the national rankings and the conference standings?

Series Notes
Records: Michigan (18-2-0, 11-1-0 CCHA), Western Michigan (6-13-1, 2-10-1 CCHA)
Series vs. Western Michigan: Michigan leads 58-25-10
Season Series: First Meeting
Series in Ann Arbor: Michigan leads 34-10-2
Series in Kalamazoo: Michigan leads 22-13-8
Last Meeting: 3-1 Michigan (2/3/2007)

U-M Offense vs. Western Michigan Defense
F – Kevin Porter (19-12-31, +14)
F – Chad Kolarik (12-12-24, +11)
F – Aaron Palushaj (6-16-2, +2)
F – Matt Rust (7-5-12, +6)
F – Louie Caporusso (4-6-10, +8)

U-M Goals/Game: 4.0
U-M Shots/Game: 29.9

Western Michigan Goals Allowed/Game: 3.0
Western Michigan Shots Allowed/Game: 30.0

Outlook: Michigan's offense is back to full strength for the first time since Louie Caporusso went down before the College Hockey Showcase. With the whole club back, Red has options. Will Chris Summers continue skating at forward? Will he go back to defense with Brian Lebler and Brandon Naurato each skating for a spot in the line up this weekend? Either way, the Wolverines offense has far too much fire power for the woeful Broncos to be able to stop.
Advantage: Michigan

Western Michigan Offense vs. U-M Defense
F – Patrick Galivan (7-15-22, -3)
F – Jeff LoVecchio (7-6-13, +3)
F – Cam Watson (7-3-10, -5)
F – Mike Lesperance (5-4-9, Even)
D – Tyler Ludwig (3-6-9, +3)

Western Michigan Goals/Game: 2.5
Western Michigan Shots/Game: 23.4

U-M Goals Allowed/Game: 1.9
U-M Shots Allowed/Game: 26.2

Outlook: Western Michigan has traditionally been a team that gives the major programs fits. This Western Michigan team, however, isn't up to the same caliber as those in recent years. With a pair of confident goalies in goal for the Wolverines, this match up again tilts heavily towards the Maize and Blue.
Advantage: Michigan

Billy Sauer
Record: 16-2-0
GAA: 1.80
Save Percentage: .930

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

Western Michigan
Riley Gill
Record: 4-10-1
GAA: 3.22
Save Percentage: .896

Jerry Kuhn
Record: 2-3-1
GAA: 2.14
Save Percentage: .918

Outlook: A year ago this would be a toss up. Junior Billy Sauer is coming off a breakout start to the season, however, and in his last two games the New York native posted two shutouts. I wouldn't be surprised to see Sauer play just one night to help maintain his endurance through the rest of the season. Should Hogan play, he's still a better option than either Riley Gill or Jerry Kuhn, especially with Mark Mitera skating in front of him.
Advantage: Michigan

U-M Power Play vs. Providence Penalty Kill
U-M Power Play: 20.3% (22-of-108)
U-M Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 1

Western Michigan PK: 84.7% (105-of-124)
Western Michigan Shorthanded Goals: 1
Western Michigan PIM/Game: 16.1

Western Michigan Power Play vs. U-M Penalty Kill
Western Michigan Power Play: 16.5% (13-of-79)
Western Michigan Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 4

U-M PK: 89.4% (101-of-113)
U-M Shorthanded Goals: 5
U-M PIM/Game: 18.0

Outlook: Michigan's power play struggled at the GLI, but that's to be expected with key contributors out of the line up. Just how quickly those players get back in sync will be a critical factor in who holds the advantage here. Should they click right from the get go, this game could get out of hand.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan just has too much for Western Michigan this season. With an 18-2-0 record, and the No. 1 national ranking, anything other than a sweep would be disappointing for Red and his top-ranked team. Tied atop the CCHA standings with a pair of games in hand against both Miami of Ohio and Notre Dame, these are games that Michigan can't afford to give back to the competition.
5-1 Michigan, 5-0 Michigan

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