#1 Michigan vs. Nebraska-Omaha Preview

The No. 1-ranked Wolverines open the CCHA tournament with a best-of-three series with the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks starting tonight at Michigan's Yost Ice Arena. How do the two teams match up as they both try to advance to Joe Louis Arena to compete in the 2008 CCHA Final Four? Can Michigan overcome key losses from practice the past few weeks?

Michigan opens the CCHA tournament this weekend with a best-of-three series with Nebraska-Omaha, the No. 8 seed. How do the Wolverines match up with the Mavericks as they attempt to get back to the CCHA Tournament title game for the second straight year? Do the Wolverines have the bodies with injuries to both Matt Rust and Scooter Vaughan despite the week off?

Series Notes
Records: Michigan (27-5-4, 18-2-4 CCHA), Nebraska-Omaha (17-17-4, 11-13-4 CCHA)
Series vs. Nebraska-Omaha: Michigan leads 20-4-3
Season Series: 2-0 Michigan
Last Meeting: 3-2 Michigan (11/03/2007)

U-M Offense vs. Nebraska-Omaha Defense
F – Kevin Porter (27-27-54, +24)
F – Chad Kolarik (24-19-43, +19)
F – Aaron Palushaj (8-27-35, +6)
F – Max Pacioretty (14-18-32, +21)
F – Travis Turnbull (12-11-23, +17)

U-M Goals/Game: 3.9
U-M Shots/Game: 31.5

Nebraska-Omaha Goals Allowed/Game: 3.4
Nebraska-Omaha Shots Allowed/Game: 26.6

Outlook: The Michigan offense was sufficient even without Chad Kolarik in the line up. Now they must face a new challenge as Kolarik returns to the line up and Matt Rust is out with a knee injury. Despite that, the Mavericks are an offensive-minded team that will provide the Wolverines with ample opportunities on the odd-man rush. That is definitely in Michigan's favor.
Advantage: Michigan

Nebraska-Omaha Offense vs. U-M Defense
F – Bryan Marshall (13-30-43, -5)
F – Mick Lawrence (21-19-40, -13)
F – Brandon Scero (16-17-33, -9)
F – Dan Charleston (11-24-35, -14)
D – Ed Del Grosso (7-17-24, -5)

Nebraska-Omaha Goals/Game: 3.2
Nebraska-Omaha Shots/Game: 31.4

U-M Goals Allowed/Game: 2.1
U-M Shots Allowed/Game: 27.0

Outlook: If Michigan wouldn't have lost Scooter Vaughan with an injury to his jaw during the bye week, this one would also swing Michigan's direction. Because the Wolverines will likely only rotate five defenseman, however, I see this being a wash as the Mavericks bring one of the most high-powered offenses in the CCHA to Yost Ice Arena.
Advantage: Push

Goalies
Michigan
Billy Sauer
Record: 24-4-3
GAA: 1.99
Save Percentage: .925

Nebraska-Omaha
Jerad Kaufmann
Record: 14-10-3
GAA: 2.92
Save Percentage: .890

Outlook: Michigan's had good goalie play all season, but in the last 11 games the Wolverines have allowed 33 goals. Yes, the competition has improved, but Sauer will need to step his game up to beginning of the season form for the Wolverines to make a significant run through March and into April.
Advantage: Push

U-M Power Play vs. Nebraska-Omaha Penalty Kill
U-M Power Play: 21.1% (41-of-194)
U-M Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 2

Nebraska-Omaha PK: 83.5% (174-of-211)
Nebraska-Omaha Shorthanded Goals: 5
Nebraska-Omaha PIM/Game: 18.2

Nebraska-Omaha Power Play vs. U-M Penalty Kill
Nebraska-Omaha Power Play: 24.3% (51-of-210)
Nebraska-Omaha Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 8

U-M PK: 85.9% (170-of-198)
U-M Shorthanded Goals: 7
U-M PIM/Game: 17.5

Outlook: Nebraska-Omaha has been dynamite skating with the advantage. Michigan must stay out of the box, especially with two of the better penalty killers out for the weekend with injuries. Extra time was devoted to the PK over the past week, but they'll have to be much, much better than against Ferris State or the Mavericks will pot a few before the Wolverines know what hit them.
Advantage: Michigan

Prediction
Despite the time off and the injuries the Wolverines will be ready to play tonight. Getting Chad Kolarik back on the ice will be a big plus, and the team will overcome the losses of Scooter Vaughan and Matt Rust with a two-game sweep of the Mavericks to advance to Joe Louis Arena.
5-3 Michigan, 4-2 Michigan

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