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January 30, 2009

U-M preps for showdown with No. 1 Notre Dame

Though media attention this week has centered on the ugliness in the final minute of last Saturday's series-clinching win over Michigan State, the Wolverines have moved onto to the real storyline of the week - their matchup with No. 1 Notre Dame …

"Our goal is to put last weekend behind us and build off the good things, but know that this weekend will be a tougher test," head coach Red Berenson said. "They're a first-place team and have lost the fewest games of anyone in our league and that's the bottom line. We're not going to outshoot or outplay a team like Notre Dame. Hopefully this weekend's games will bring the best out in our team."

Notre Dame begins began the week ranked No. 1 for the seventh week in a row as they maintained their school-record 20-game unbeaten streak (17-0-3), including 13-0-3 in CCHA play. During their incredible stretch, the Fighting Irish have allowed one goal or less in 12 contests thanks to a dominant defense and the play of senior netminder Jordan Pearce, who boasts a .936 save percentage.

"This will be our biggest test this season," sophomore forward Carl Hagelin said. "Our offense had some success against Michigan State but we can't expect to score five goals both nights against Notre Dame. We're going to have to play great all-around hockey."

A slight modification to U-M's top two lines produced results against the Spartans. Michigan's No. 1 line, featuring sophomore center Louie Caporusso, freshman left wing David Wohlberg and senior right wing Travis Turnbull, produced four goals while Hagelin and classmates Matt Rust and Aaron Palushaj also scored four goals on the second line.

"Let's face it, up until we made those changes our scoring lines weren't scoring," Berenson said. "Rust's line and Louie's line weren't generating the offense they normally would. Anytime they don't score there is a good chance we're not going to win. You saw that against Bowling Green [Jan. 16-17]. Our best players didn't score and we only won one game.

"I wasn't down on how they were playing -- I just thought we needed a change so we made a change."

While the Maize and Blue's most immediate need for beating ND is to move up in the CCHA standings - the Wolverines share fourth place with Ohio State and Nebraska (24 points) but are just two points back of third-place Alaska - they are also seeking a bit of revenge for last year's Frozen Four loss to Notre Dame.

"I'm sure that's in the back of everyone's minds," sophomore defenseman Tristin Llewellyn said. "Last year, we swept them earlier in the year and then they got payback when it mattered most.

"It feels so much better knowing that you got them back but obviously it's not the same because that was the Frozen Four and this is a regular-season game. But beating anyone always feels great and we need these wins for our league and to prove to ourselves that if we see these guys again down the road we can turn the tables on them."

Game Facts
What: Michigan (18-8-0) vs. Notre Dame (19-3-3).
When: Friday, 8:05 p.m., in South Bend; Saturday, 7:35 p.m., in Ann Arbor.
Television: Friday's game will be carried live by CBS College Sports; Saturday's game will air on Fox Sports Net.
Series History: Michigan leads the series with Notre Dame 66-43-5.
Game Notes: The Wolverines are 9-1-0 in their last 10 … Sophomore goalie Bryan Hogan is 8-1-0 with a 1.56 goals against average and a .925 save percentage during U-M's 10-game stretch … With two goals last weekend against Michigan State, sophomore forward Louie Caporusso now has 20 this season, giving head coach Red Berenson at least one 20-goal scorer in 24 of his 25 years as head coach … Michigan is ranked seventh/eighth in this week's polls … Though they trail Alaska by two points and Miami (second place) by four, the Maize and Blue have played four fewer games than the Nanooks and two fewer than the RedHawks.

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