1) After a 15-20-3 season a year ago, when they placed fourth in Atlantic Hockey with a 15-10-3 record, the Lakers were picked to finish second in the AHA and garnered two first place votes. I might not be a math genius, but that means that the Lakers were 0-10-0 against non-conference foes a year ago. They lost to both Alaska schools and both Colorado schools, got swept by Western, lost to Duluth and Huntsville, and got swept by Canisius in the AHA tournament. Combined goals? 48-18.
2) Even though nobody on their team really lit it up (their leading scorer, Mike Gurtler, had 14 goals and 30 points), they were 18th in the country in offense at 3.18 goals per game (about a tenth of a goal per game behind Michigan). Phil Ganand ranked fifth on the team in offense as a freshman before missing most of last year with an injury. Grant Blakey, who hails from Canton, had 11-16--27 as a freshman playing on the top line. He was also second on the team with a +16 rating and finished the year with 12 points in the final 11 games. Scott Pitt had 15-30--45 as a sophomore before a bit of a down year last year (7-18--25).
3) Defensively, they ranked 34th a year ago, giving up 3.11 goals per game. Gone is their top-scoring defenseman, along with another senior who played in 30 games last year. Senior Jeff Terminesi was a team high +17 last year.
4) Senior Ryan Zapolski got most of the work in net last year, going 15-17-3 with a 2.79/.918. His save percentage matches the guy starting in the nets for Michigan, Shawn Hunwick. Backup Max Strang was 0-3 with a 4.39/.875. They also bring in Jordan Tibbett, a one-time Michigan State commitment who played for Detroit Honeybaked back in the day.
5) Tibbett sat a row in front of me at Yost one time and denied me of the best chance I've ever had to catch a puck. A shot came into the seats and, I kid you not, the kid reached behind him and snared it as it was going by. My jaw hit the ground. The coach laughed and said "That's our goalie!" I had to tip my hat to him because that was a helluva grab. If he plays, call him a sieve a few extra times for me! Or if he's sitting on the bench, call him a backup sieve a few extra times for me!
6) Their power play was brutal a year ago. 13.4% and they gave up four shorties. Matt Fennell scored all six of his goals with the man advantage last year, to lead the team in PPGs. He graduated though. Brandon Coccimiglio had 4.
7) The PK was also subpar-just 79.8%-but they did score 8 shorties. Only St. Cloud, Boston U, and Army had more SHGs. Matt Gurtler, their leading scorer and a load at 6'2" 222, put in four of those to lead the nation. Gurtler actually scored three of those shorties in the same game, becoming just the seventh player in history to accomplish that feat.
8) These teams have played twice in their history. Michigan won the first meeting at an NCAA Regional in Grand Rapids by a 4-3 score (leading to the game against St. Cloud the next night where Miss Molly would grow to hate the "horrible people" that are Wolverine fans). In 03-04 they met again and Michigan prevailed 5-3.
9) Mercyhurst's head coach Rick Gotkin is looking for his 400th career win tomorrow night. He would be just the 11th coach to win 400 games at one school. Red Berenson is also going for his 700th career win tonight. So unless they tie, it is a milestone night for someone.
10) This is the only game in the nation that will be played this weekend which counts in the standings.