#1 Michigan vs. Nigara Preview (Reg. Semi's)

No. 1 Michigan skates against Niagara in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Albany, N.Y. How do the Wolverines and the Purple Eagles match up as the Wolverines begin their run at the Frozen Four? What Eagle skaters do you need to look for in the second regional semifinal match up in Albany.

The Wolverines open the NCAA Tournament with a 7:30 p.m. tilt against the Niagara Purple Eagles in Albany, N.Y. How do the top-seeded Wolverines match up with the underdog Eagles? Will Michigan ride the momentum of the CCHA title into the Frozen Four with a pair of wins this weekend? Who are the players to watch in this first round NCAA Division I Ice Hockey match up?

Series Notes
Records: Michigan (31-5-4, 20-4-4 CCHA), Niagara (22-10-4, 12-6-2 CHA)
Series vs. Niagara: Michigan leads 3-1-0
Season Series: First Meeting
Last Meeting: 6-2 Michigan (11/01/2003)
In the NCAA Tournament: First Meeting

U-M Offense vs. Niagara Defense
F – Kevin Porter (28-28-56, +30)
F – Chad Kolarik (28-20-48, +24)
F – Aaron Palushaj (9-29-38, +8)
F – Travis Turnbull (15-12-27, +19)
F – Max Pacioretty (14-20-34, +26)

U-M Goals/Game: 4.0
U-M Shots/Game: 32.0

Niagara Goals Allowed/Game: 2.6
Niagara Shots Allowed/Game: 31.9

Outlook: Michigan's offense can score on you with any line at any time. Just when Miami thought it was safe by holding the Wolverines top line off the scoreboard, the underclassmen came through with goals on both the second and fourth lines. Niagara hasn't seen a speed and skilled attack this good all season, and the Wolverines should have little trouble lighting the lamp at least a couple of times.
Advantage: Michigan

Niagara Offense vs. U-M Defense
F – Ted Cook (19-12-31, -3)
F – Matt Caruana (16-22-38, +18)
F – Vince Rocco (14-31-45, +25)
F – Kyle Rogers (10-13-23, +6)
F – Egor Mironov (15-9-24, -6)

Niagara Goals/Game: 3.5
Niagara Shots/Game: 27.8

U-M Goals Allowed/Game: 2.1
U-M Shots Allowed/Game: 26.6

Outlook: Niagara's offense has been hot as of late, but after the Wolverines held the high-octane Miami offense to just one goal last weekend, the Wolverines shouldn't have much of a problem with what the Purple Eagles have to offer. Mark Mitera and Chris Summers both need to have a big weekend, but if the two can play consistent, the Wolverines should advance to Saturday's regional final.
Advantage: Michigan

Goalies
Michigan
Billy Sauer
Record: 28-4-3
GAA: 1.97
Save Percentage: .924

Niagara
Juliano Pagliero
Record: 17-6-4
GAA: 2.27
Save Percentage: .929

Outlook: Both goalies in this match up are relatively untested in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan's Billy Sauer had a start last season against North Dakota, but it was a forgettable one as the Wolverines lost a game in which they held the lead on multiple occasions. Despite that, both these goalies have had spectacular seasons and have been able to steal victories from the jaws of defeat on numerous occasions this year. We'll call it a push.
Advantage: Push

U-M Power Play vs. Niagara Penalty Kill
U-M Power Play: 20.9% (43-of-211)
U-M Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 2

Niagara PK: 80.1% (121-of-151)
Niagara Shorthanded Goals: 2
Niagara PIM/Game: 12.6

Niagara Power Play vs. U-M Penalty Kill
Niagara Power Play: 24.7% (41-of-166)
Niagara Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 6

U-M PK: 85.7% (186-of-217)
U-M Shorthanded Goals: 8
U-M PIM/Game: 17.5

Outlook: Michigan has much more speed than the Purple Eagles do and it should give the Wolverines a significant edge on special teams. If Michigan stays aggressive on the penalty kill it should provide problems to the Niagara power play, a place where the Eagles are dependent if they want to get the goals they need to win on a steady basis.
Advantage: Michigan

Prediction
Michigan comes out fast and advances to the second round with a sound victory.
5-2 Michigan

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