Michigan is 2-0-2 this year against their opponent in the CCHA Semifinal, but NMU has given Michigan all they can handle so far this season. The early season games finished 3-1 and 4-3 (when Kolarik scored short-handed immediately after NMU tied the game up in the last minute). Back at Yost, the teams played to a pair of 3-3 ties.
I'm not writing a formal "10 Things to Know" about this game since I just wrote one about NMU a month and a half ago, and it would be pretty redundant. Here are a few things to remember about our previous games, however:
-When we last played NMU, it was a trap weekend. Those games were in between that emotional series against MSU and the showdown with Miami.
-Kevin Quick was dismissed from the team right before Friday night's game against NMU.
-Bryan Hogan played in the second tie game.
-In those two ties, Michigan badly outshot the Wildcats (44-24 on Friday night, 37-21 on Saturday) but Brian Stewart was great both nights and Michigan missed some great chances.
-There were a ton of power plays in the most recent series. Michigan was 3-15 on the weekend with an incredible 29 power play shots on goal. The Wildcats were 1-14 with 9 shots. Craig Lisko was officiating that weekend.
-Louie Caporusso had a really nice weekend. He had a goal and an assist, and was always around the puck. He had a couple that I'm not sure how he missed. I say that about Louie quite a bit, don't I? If he starts burying those, he's going to put up huge numbers.
-Don't expect Michigan to improve in the faceoff department. We got killed up at Northern and they were +19 on draws in Ann Arbor. Porter won just 6 out of 24 faceoffs last series.
-Kolarik had 19 shots on goal during our last series.
-Mitera had one of his worst games of the season Friday night, immediately after his defense partner was kicked off the team. He rebounded to play well on Saturday night.
Other things to keep in mind:
-Billy Sauer has been good against NMU in his career, going 7-1-1, with a 2.11 goals against and a .914 save percentage.
-Strangely, Northern seems to fare better at Yost than they do at home or at neutral sites. They're 10-13-2 all-time at Yost, but just 1-7-0 against the Wolverines on neutral ice.
-Porter and Kolarik each have 14 points in 13 career games against NMU. Amongst the freshmen, but Caporusso and Palushaj have 4 points in 4 games.
-The Wildcats are 36th offensively and 27th defensively, right in the 2.6-2.7 goals per game range. Their power play is 38th (14.4%) and the PK is 53rd (78.4%). They have, however, put in nine short-handed goals this season, including at least one against us.
Also, if Michigan wins, it will be completely due to the officiating. The linked site claims that Steve McInchak was wearing Michigan suspenders before the series up in Marquette this season. He then proceeded to give Michigan 9 power plays to NMU's 5. I'm calling BS on this one. 1) There's absolutely no way he'd wear Michigan suspenders unless he was paying off a bet or something. 2) It was STEVE McINCHAK! As of the last time I updated my spreadsheet on this computer, we have had him in 27 games over the past five years and have received nine power plays more than our opposition. 3) Why bother mentioning that the next night, NMU had an 8-5 edge in power plays? It doesn't fulfill the agenda. Again, if you were to propose a bill that McInchak could not do our games anymore, I challenge you to find a Michigan fan that wouldn't pledge his/her support.
Since Michigan last played NMU, the Wildcats are 9-4-1. They've played 5 against MSU, 5 against OSU, and series against UNO and LSSU. Any team that goes 4-1-0 against a team that we've traditionally struggled against (MSU) is worthy of respect. It'll be a tough one tomorrow. I expect the Wolverines to come out on top, but Northern is playing great hockey and unlike us, they're in a win or go home situation. If they lose, their season ends Saturday in the consolation game. NMU will have to get stellar goaltending (we've put up 130 shots in 4 games) and they'll have to try to stay out of the box as their penalty killing is less than adequate. Stewart is more than capable of stealing a game or series, and if he's on it's going to be a tight game that could go either way. If he's not standing on his head, I would imagine that Michigan wins.