Friday, January 13, 2017

Scouting Michigan: Opponent Preview, TV Schedule, Game Times and More

Game Times: Friday (January 13, 2017) at 8 pm CT; Saturday (January 14, 2017) at 7 pm CT. 
Location: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis, MN
TV: Friday on BTN; Saturday on FSN+
Radio: 1500 ESPN both nights

Michigan (8-9-1, 1-3-0-0 Big Ten), like Minnesota (11-5-2, 3-1-0-0 Big Ten), has spent much of the last month idle. Both teams played a tournament on New Year’s Eve (Mariucci Classic for MN, Great Lakes Invitational for MI) before being off once again last weekend.

That’s where the similarities end.

The Wolverines and Gophers have been the two best teams in the Big Ten the past couple seasons. Each was successful knocking the other out of the NCAA Tournament with a Big Ten conference tournament title. 

This year is different. While Minnesota has rebounded this year and is in position to get back in the tournament, Michigan, which lost to eventual national champion North Dakota, has suffered from early departures, digging itself into an early hole. The Wolverines started off the Big Ten conference schedule with three straight losses to Penn State and Wisconsin.

Currently, Michigan sits in fifth place in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and a three-way tie between the Nittany Lions, Badgers and Gophers.

Part of that has to do with early departures. Michigan has had to replace all three players on the “CCM” line - Kyle Connor, JT Compher and Tyler Motte - that gave the Gophers and college hockey fits in two blowout losses to the pros. Zach Werenski is now a Calder candidate for Columbus while perennial game misconduct taker Michael Downing left after his junior year to join the Florida Panthers organization.

If this year’s team is defined by who is not around from an offense that went from being the 1980s Edmonton Oilers to 37th in the nation at 2.67 goals per game, legendary head coach Red Berenson has focused on making his club, which features 10 freshmen, more defensively responsible. The Wolverines continue to be better in that department and it has worked at times. Currently Michigan is tied with Minnesota in team defense, having given up 2.83 goals per game (down from 3.03 in 2015-16).

Michigan holds wins over Union and Boston University this season. However, the inconsistency of a young Wolverines team shows in the team having yet to sweep a series. In a Big Ten conference where offense shines, PSU scored 11 goals in 2 wins. Wisconsin was able to score 7 while even Michigan State got 4 on Michigan.

Sophomore forward Cooper Marody made his season debut at the GLI and will be back against Minnesota. In addition, Joe Cecconi returns for Michigan after winning a gold medal with Team USA.

Expect senior goalie Zach Nagelvoort to start Friday’s game. Freshmen Hayden Lavinge and Jack LaFontaine have also been evenly platooning with Nagelvoort. It would not be a surprise to see either on Saturday.

Other notes:

Injuries: Will Lockwood (shoulder), Christian Mieke (knee) - both are out for the weekend, according to Red Berenson. 

Lockwood's impact will be missed as he leads the team with 13 points. Lockwood, a freshman forward, left in the second period of the GLI consolation game against Michigan State and did not return.

Leading scorers: Lockwood and fellow freshman Jake Slaker (#13) are tied with 13 points. Junior Tony Calderone (#17) leads Michigan with 10 goals. 

Familiar faces: A pair of defensemen - senior captain Nolan De Jong (#21) and sophomore Nick Boka (#27) - are Minnesota Wild prospects. Another defenseman, junior Sam Piazza (#6), is the brother of Gopher women's hockey forward Cara Piazza.

Alex Kile (#23) scored a hat trick at Mariucci Arena when the two teams played last season.

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