Froz-4 Preview: #1 Michigan vs. #12 ND

No. 1 Michigan meets No. 12 Notre Dame in the second semifinal game at the 2008 Frozen Four on Thursday night. How do the Wolverines and Fighting Irish match up in their third head-to-head game of the season? Can the Wolverines return to the national title game for the first time since winning it all in 1998? 2008 Frozen Four coverage is sponsored by IMCO Carbide Tool.

Frozen Four 2008 coverage is sponsored by IMCO Carbide Tool

Michigan and Notre Dame aren't just rivals on the football field anymore. At 9 p.m. tonight, the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish do battle in the second semifinal contest at the 2008 Frozen Four. How do the teams match up for a spot in the national title game?

Series Notes
Records: Michigan (33-5-4, 20-4-4 CCHA), Notre Dame (26-15-4, 15-9-4 CCHA)
Series vs. Notre Dame: Michigan leads 64-42-5
Season Series: 2-0 Michigan
Series in NCAA Tournament: First Meeting
Last Meeting: 5-1 Notre Dame (1/19/2008)

U-M Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
F – Kevin Porter (33-29-62, +34)
F – Chad Kolarik (28-26-54, +28)
F – Travis Turnbull (15-12-27, +19)
F – Max Pacioretty (15-23-38, +30)
F – Aaron Palushaj (10-31-41, +8)

U-M Goals/Game: 4.0
U-M Shots/Game: 32.1

Notre Dame Goals Allowed/Game: 2.0
Notre Dame Shots Allowed/Game: 23.4

Outlook: Michigan has all the tools to put the puck in the back of the net... a lot. Notre Dame has one of the best defensive teams in the nation. When the teams met earlier in the season, the Wolverines got the best of this match up, and I expect to see it remain much the same this time around. Watch for the Wolverines top line of Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik and Max Pacioretty to have big games.
Advantage: Michigan

Notre Dame Offense vs. U-M Defense
F – Ryan Thang (17-13-30, +7)
F – Kevin Deeth (5-12-17, +5)
F – Mark Van Guilder (12-17-29, +2)
F – Ben Ryan (10-16-26, -2)
F - Christian Hanson (13-9-22, +6)

Notre Dame Goals/Game: 2.9
Notre Dame Shots/Game: 30.4

U-M Goals Allowed/Game: 2.0
U-M Shots Allowed/Game: 26.4

Outlook: Notre Dame's offense has moved at a snails pace over the second half of the season. Subtract leading scorer Erik Condra, and you'd expect it to come to a stand still, right? Wrong. ND erupted to the tune of 10 goals last weekend in advancing to the Frozen Four with wins over New Hampshire and Michigan State. That said, Michigan should be able to control the tempo of the game and keep the Irish to the outside.
Advantage: Michigan

Billy Sauer
Record: 30-4-3
GAA: 1.89
Save Percentage: .927

Notre Dame
Jordan Pearce
Record: 22-14-4
GAA: 1.95
Save Percentage: .917

Outlook: Is this the last time that Billy Sauer will have to prove his naysayers wrong? Coming back to the building that North Dakota abused the Wolverines goalie is a question that lingers on as the Wolverines prepare for this match up. I believe Sauer stands strong, and the Wolverines get even goalie play with Notre Dame.
Advantage: Push

U-M Power Play vs. Notre Dame Penalty Kill
U-M Power Play: 20.5% (46-of-224)
U-M Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 2

Notre Dame PK: 89.6% (180-of-201)
Notre Dame Shorthanded Goals: 8
Notre Dame PIM/Game: 13.3

Notre Dame Power Play vs. U-M Penalty Kill
Notre Dame Power Play: 15.4% (39-of-254)
Notre Dame Shorthanded Goals Allowed: 6

U-M PK: 86.5% (198-of-229)
U-M Shorthanded Goals: 8
U-M PIM/Game: 17.2

Outlook: Both teams were good on special teams last weekend, but the Wolverines have more power play firepower than the Irish have seen in some time. Notre Dame's penalty kill has been great, but their power play isn't a strong point so I give Michigan a slight edge.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan should win this game. Notre Dame is without their leading scorer Erik Condra, and the Wolverines handled the Irish in two games earlier this season. If Michigan avoids turnovers, expect Michigan to put this one away sometime in the third period.
4-2 Michigan

Frozen Four 2008 coverage is sponsored by IMCO Carbide Tool
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