Preview: Michigan travels to Miami Ohio
In the past two weekends, Michigan has earned three of a possible eight points, leaving the Maize and Blue a point back of CCHA leader Miami (Ohio). If the Wolverines are to win the conference regular season, they will have to go through the Redhawks and that challenge commences tonight …
"We know they're a good team. Hopefully, we get in two close games and we have a chance to win both of them," head coach Red Berenson said. "We just know it's a big challenge for us. We've had our moments, but they've been the team from day one, right out of the chute. Their goals against are best in the country. They're the team to beat.
"I think they're a little bit like Notre Dame and Michigan State with even more skill on offense, and better defense, and supposedly better goalkeeping. They have the best of all worlds going for them right now."
Miami has won seven straight while U-M enters play winless in its last four games after going 0-1-1 against Michigan State Jan. 25-26 and skating to a pair of 3-3 ties with Northern Michigan Feb. 1-2. The Wolverines don't have a lot going for themselves right now except an attitude. They're fed up with the way they've been playing recently and are eager to once again prove their worth.
"It's a little bit like the beginning of the season all over again," Junior defenseman Mark Mitera said. "We were a nobody when the year began and a lot of people expect us to go down to Miami and lose both games because of the way we've been playing. We have confidence in ourselves but we have to get back to doing the things we were doing when we were winning. I think we're going to have a good weekend because we're hungry."
In starting 22-2-0, Michigan could not be stopped offensively or defensively. They have struggled on both ends of the rink in recent weeks, averaging just two goals per game in the past four contests. Hobey Baker favorite Kevin Porter has registered just one goal in the past four and only three points. Linemate Chad Kolarik shares a similar stat line.
"We have to play better, that's my feeling," Berenson said. "Whether it's rising up or getting back on track. We have to play better or it won't even be a good contest. We need to be more ready and play better offensively, defensively … in all the facets we've been talking about sitting around here for the last month."
If Michigan falls to Miami twice, its hopes of winning the CCHA diminish greatly while its national reputation also takes a big hit. U-M needs a strong performance to remain a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A sweep, which no one at Yost talked about this week, would be ideal, but a split would suffice.
"We understand the importance of this weekend – we know what's on the line," Mitera said. "Guys are excited to prove themselves and we expect to get back to playing the way we had all year [until the past two weekends.]"
What & When: No. 2 Michigan at No. 1 Miami (Ohio) … Friday's game begins at 8:05 p.m. and will be carried live by CSTV … Saturday's game will start at 7:35 p.m. and will be carried by Fox Sports Detroit … Both games can be heard on 1050 AM in Ann Arbor.
Who's Hot For Michigan: Porter (23 goals) and Kolarik (19 goals) remain Michigan's most effective offensive weapons …Freshman forward Max Pacioretty has a team-best three-game point streak, scoring two goals and picking up two assists during that stretch … Junior goalie Billy Sauer is 20-3-2 with a 1.72 goals against average and a .935 save percentage.
Who's Hot For Miami: Redhawk forwards Ryan Jones (22) and Justin Mercier (20) are the only pair of teammates nationally with 20 or more goals … Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff is 20-3-0 with a 1.50 goals against average and a .937 save percentage.
What To Watch For: Michigan is 1-5-2 in its last eight games against the No. 1 team in the country … Nationally, Miami and U-M rank first and second, respectively, in team winning percentage (.893 to .839), scoring offense (4.39 to 3.82) and scoring defense (1.54 to 1.82) … The Wolverines' four-game winless streak (0-1-3) is the team's longest since going 0-2-2 from Feb. 17-25, 2006 … Michigan is making its Steve Cady Arena debut after last visiting the now defunct Goggin Ice Arena in 2006 … The Maize and Blue are 8-0-1 on the road this season.