CCHA Semifinal Preview: U-M vs. NMU

The top-ranked Wolverines are looking to advance to the CCHA Championship game with a win tonight against Northern Michigan. How do the Wolverines and the Wildcats match up in their fifth meeting of the season? Will Michigan be returning to the CCHA Championship game for the second straight year?

The Wolverines are at Joe Louis Arena again, this time the Northern Michigan Wildcats standing between the top-ranked Wolverines and a return trip to the CCHA Championship game. How do the Wolverines match up with Northern Michigan, who rallied for a pair of come-from-behind ties against the Wolverines at Yost Ice Arena back in the beginning of February?

Series Notes
Records: Michigan (29-5-4, 20-4-4 CCHA), Northern Michigan (19-19-4, 12-13-3 CCHA)
Series vs. Northern Michigan: Michigan leads 29-16-5
Season Series: 2-0-2 Michigan
Last Meeting: 3-3 Michigan (11/03/2007)
In the CCHA Tournament: 5-0-0 Michigan

U-M Offense vs. Northern Michigan Defense
F – Kevin Porter (28-28-56, +29)
F – Chad Kolarik (27-19-46, +23)
F – Aaron Palushaj (8-29-37, +8)
F – Travis Turnbull (13-12-25, +19)
F – Carl Hagelin (10-10-20, +16)

U-M Goals/Game: 4.0
U-M Shots/Game: 31.9

Northern Michigan Goals Allowed/Game: 2.7
Northern Michigan Shots Allowed/Game: 30.5

Outlook: The offense was out in full force this weekend as the Wolverines potted 12 goals in a two-game sweep of Nebraska-Omaha. Max Pacioretty must sit the first contest with his one-game suspension, but even without Pacioretty and Rust the Wolverines should have enough fire power to light the lamp. With a bigger sheet of ice, watch for the Wolverines to take advantage of their speed and skill against the Wildcats.
Advantage: Michigan

Northern Michigan Offense vs. U-M Defense
F – Mark Olver (20-17-37, +10)
F – Nick Sirota (18-17-35, +5)
F – Matt Siddall (16-16-32, +10)
F – Phil Fox (13-5-18, +8)
D – Erik Gustafsson (0-27-27, +15)

Northern Michigan Goals/Game: 2.6
Northern Michigan Shots/Game: 24.9

U-M Goals Allowed/Game: 2.1
U-M Shots Allowed/Game: 26.7

Outlook: Scooter Vaughan should be back in the line up this weekend, and playing to Michigan's advantage is the fact that the Wildcats will play a grinding, physical game. Northern Michigan isn't the most offensive team, but they're opportunistic and know how to bury their chances. Michigan should get the edge in this match up as long as the Wolverines can keep defenders off Billy Sauer and control defensive rebounds.
Advantage: Michigan

Goalies
Michigan
Billy Sauer
Record: 26-4-3
GAA: 1.94
Save Percentage: .926

Northern Michigan
Brian Stewart
Record: 15-14-4
GAA: 2.54
Save Percentage: .919

Outlook: Sauer looked good allowing just two goals against Nebraska-Omaha last weekend. Stewart looked just as sharp helping Northern Michigan upset the favored Spartans in East Lansing. If both are on their "A" game, we'll call this one a push.
Advantage: Push

U-M Power Play vs. Northern Michigan Penalty Kill
U-M Power Play: 20.9% (42-of-201)
U-M Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 2

Northern Michigan PK: 78.4% (182-of-232)
Northern Michigan Shorthanded Goals: 9
Northern Michigan PIM/Game: 15.2

Northern Michigan Power Play vs. U-M Penalty Kill
Northern Michigan Power Play: 14.4% (29-of-201)
Northern Michigan Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 3

U-M PK: 85.7% (180-of-210)
U-M Shorthanded Goals: 8
U-M PIM/Game: 17.9

Outlook: Michigan should have the advantage in special teams, but that's what helped the Wildcats escape Yost with a pair of ties earlier in the season. Michigan revamped the penalty kill before last weekends series, and I expect to see that pay dividends as the Wolverines look toward Saturday night's CCHA Championship game.
Advantage: Michigan

Prediction
Michigan puts together one of its most significant performances of the year and rolls past the Wildcats 4-2. Watch for Michigan to try and get a quick lead to slow the Wildcats spirits.
4-2 Michigan

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