April 7, 2011
NCAA Frozen Four

 

MICHIGAN vs.
NORTH DAKOTA

Thurs., April 8 • 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN2

 

 
Overall
Conference
Home
Away
Neutral
U-M
28-10-4
20-7-1-0 (1st)
16-2-1
7-6-3
5-2-0
ND
32-8-3
21-6-1 (1st)
15-4-1
12-4-2
5-0-0
 
 
Goals/Gm.
GA/Gm.
PP Pct.
PK Pct.
PIM/Gm.
U-M
3.38 (13th)
2.26 (6th)
.182 (27th)
.831 (T-22nd)
13.2 (35th)
ND
4.14 (2nd)
2.14 (3rd)
.233 (7th)
.860 (5th)
14.5 (21st)

MICHIGAN: West Regional second seed
Michigan 3, Nebraska-Omaha 2 (ot)
Michigan 2, Colorado College 1

NORTH DAKOTA: Midwest Regional first seed
North Dakota 6, Rensselaer 0
North Dakota 6, Denver 1

Carl Hagelin might be the most complete forward at the Frozen Four. He can score goals (18 this season) or set up his teammates (30 assists), and he was honored as the CCHA's top defensive forward. He'll be on the ice in every key situation. Hagelin stirs the drink, but there's quality depth behind him. Louie Caporusso enters the weekend with the lowest goal total (11) in his Wolverine career, but he's dangerous. Another senior, Scooter Vaughan, has been a revelation; the converted defenseman has 13 goals this season.

Matt Frattin gets most of the attention and deservedly so – 36 goals is no joke. This team can hurt you from any of its four lines and keep an eye on Danny Kristo. He's a game-changer and has been very effective for North Dakota since returning to the lineup in the last month of the season. Six North Dakota players have accounted for 13 or more goals this season and nine players have 21 points or more.

This is a pretty good, if not very well known, bunch. Freshman Jon Merrill has had an impressive rookie season, playing first-pair minutes and flashing the kind of puck skills that foreshadow an impact offensive presence. If Brandon Burlon, who missed the CCHA championship and the NCAA West Regional because of sickness, can return, it's a huge boost; he's probably Michigan's top defensive defenseman. Sophomore Lee Moffie has showed an offensive flair recently—he's got nine points in his last 10 games. Another freshman, Mac Bennett, was in and out of the lineup early in the season, but he's been a regular for the last two months and has acquitted himself nobly.

The key element for North Dakota's defensemen is experience. Three seniors – Chay Genoway, Jake Marto, and Derrick LaPoint – as well as junior Ben Blood comprise four of the six spots every night on the North Dakota blue line. They're solid in their own end and take care of the spaces around the net by clearing bodies and pucks in front, and also effectively patrol the end boards when teams try to generate chances off the cycle. If there's a weakness among this group, it might be overall footspeed. Look for opponents to exploit chances on line rushes.

The best thing about Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick might be that he knows his limitations. Certainly, Hunwick has terrific numbers—a 21-8-4 record, a 2.26 goals against average, and a .922 save percentage—but he's at his best when he doesn't try to do too much. He's listed at 5-foot-7 and 166 pounds, which may be generous in both respects, so look for North Dakota to throw some bigger bodies in front of the net to harass him.

Aaron Dell has been the man all year long and the Sioux's fortunes seemed to change once he took over as the team's starting goalie. Dell, last week named INCH Goaltender of the Year, has provided consistency and has also shown the ability to steal a game when his team needs him. Dell rarely stands out, primarily because his team has the puck so much, but has come up with big saves when called upon.

This is an atypical Michigan team in terms of its power play; they're a middling 27th nationally with an 18.2 percent success rate. As a penalty-killing unit, Michigan is probably better than its numbers (tied for 22nd nationally) indicate. The Wolverines allowed just one power-play goal in 13 opportunities in their two West Regional wins. In fact, throw out U-M's loss to Western Michigan in the CCHA tournament semifinals—the Broncos scored on three of their six extra-man chances—and the Wolverines have given up two PPGs in their last 11 games.

North Dakota ranks among the top-seven nationally in both power play and penalty-killing situations but one of the most important special-teams aspects for the Sioux is the ability to score short-handed goals. While its 86.0 percent penalty-killing efficiency is noteworthy, it's even more impressive when combined with North Dakota's 11 short-handed goals scored. That's been a trend in recent games too, as the Sioux scored a shorty in each game of the regional and five short-handed goals in the last seven games.

Now in his 27th season behind the Wolverines bench, Red Berenson has piloted the Wolverines to 727 wins, 21 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, 11 Frozen Fours, and two titles. He probably doesn't get enough credit for the job he's done this season, guiding Michigan to the CCHA regular-season title and its first trip to the Frozen Four since 2008.

Dave Hakstol is the youngest of the four coaches at this year's Frozen Four, but that doesn't mean he's any less accomplished. He has led the Sioux to sustained excellence through his seven years, with seven NCAA Tournament appearances and five trips to the Frozen Four. That's in addition to three WCHA Final Five titles.

WHY MICHIGAN WINS: Here's an odd thought—Michigan in the role of underdog and the team the non-partisan fans at the Xcel Energy Center will be rooting for. At this point, the Wolverines have to feel like they're playing with house money. With little expected of them against favored North Dakota, sticking to the game plan, not trying to do to much, and getting an early lead and putting some of the pressure on the Sioux appears to be their blueprint for success.

WHY NORTH DAKOTA WINS: Simply put, they've got the best team and they've got the right attitude. The Sioux have had their minds set on winning this weekend's trophy and have taken a business-like approach to getting things done. With depth in the forward lines, a veteran defense corps and one of the nation's best goaltenders North Dakota has the right personnel to match a driven, focused approach.