I made it through a whole half of watching Michigan basketball! Go me! But there's 8 minutes left in the game and we have 29 points, so it's time to write a hockey preview:
1) Friday's game and Sunday's if necessary game can be viewed (for free) at MGoBlue.com courtesy of WOLV-TV. Saturday's game will be aired on Comcast Sportscenter or whatever the hell the not-Comcast-Local station is called. It's in the 900s on your digital box. Thank God for Slingbox.
2) The Mavericks have gone 5-4-1 in their last 10, playing OSU, NMU, BGSU, a single game against Mankato, and three against Alaska. They've allowed 2 or fewer goals just three times in that span, though they've scored two or fewer on just two occasions. There are going to be some goals this weekend.
3) UNO is actually above .500 on the road, going 9-8-0. They did go 1-7-0 against Miami, Notre Dame, Michigan State, and NMU in away games, however.
4) The Michigan Daily's article yesterday seems to indicate Bryan Marshall will play but I haven't seen anything that indicates it's a definite. I'm sure he'll give it a go--he obviously wants to--but we'll see how effective he'll be. Marshall's health will be a major factor in if UNO can give Michigan a series.
5) UNO's fourth line is a pain to play against. Bagron was a thorn in our side the last time we faced the Mavericks. They're fun to watch. Moreso when they aren't playing against you.
6) UNO has beaten Michigan just one time at Yost. That win, however, came in the 2004 CCHA Tournament. The Wolverines lead the all-time series 20-4-3
7) Both offenses are great (Michigan is #2 nationally, UNO is #12). Both power plays are great (Michigan is #8, UNO is #1). Michigan has the edge in the defensive categories, both overall (#5 to UNO's #53) and on the PK (#15 to UNO's #39). The Mavericks have two 40 point scorers, two more 30 point scorers, and two defensemen that average more than a half-point a game. Del Grosso and Goulet were both impressive during the last series and since then, Juha Uotila has straightened out his academic issues and scored 15 points in 20 games from back on the blueline. Mick Lawrence is the sniper, second in the country with 15 PPGs.
8) Michigan's top performers against UNO have been, go figure, Porter (8-6--14 in 10 games) and Kolarik (3-9--12 in 10 games). Billy Sauer is 6-0-0 all-time against the Mavericks with a respectable 2.47/.911.
9) Interesting stat from Michigan's release this week (PDF): One member of our top line has scored in 32 of our 36 games this year. Porter has assisted on half of Kolarik's goals, Kolarik has assisted on just slightly more than half of Porter's goals. Also, Porter was the first non-goalie to win the CCHA's Perani Cup for 3-Star Points.
10) I look for some goals this weekend. Both teams have high-powered offenses. UNO's defense and goaltending are very shaky, and Michigan hasn't been all that great defensively as of late (they haven't given up less than 2 goals in the past 11 games). The Wolverines will get a boost offensively with the return of Chad Kolarik, but they also get arguably their best penalty killer back, which is huge with the loss of Matt Rust.
Michigan's penalty kill needs to be better than it was against Ferris, going up against the top power play in the country. Both teams are going to get their chances with the man advantage, because, let's face it, they play in the CCHA and lots of penalties are the way we roll in this conference.
I could see UNO taking a game in this series, particularly if the Wolverines are rusty or play the type of game that has become more common over the last month. I picked Michigan in a sweep because I think ultimately our defense is better, our goalie is much better, and we have more fire power up front. I'd be surprised if it's an easy series, however.
I'm looking for some close, highish-scoring games (more 4-3ish than 7-6). UNO will give us a scare, might even steal one though I don't expect it, but I'd be very, very surprised if Michigan doesn't move on to the Joe. Being that Omaha has only beaten Michigan one time at Yost in their history (and they've had some good teams) it would be a major shocker if they won two this weekend to pull the upset.