BY MICHAEL FLOREK
Daily Sports Writer
Published January 21, 2010
As members of the same conference the Michigan hockey team and No. 9 Ferris State know a lot about each other. But this weekend, the familiarity will go beyond that.
Matchup: MICHIGAN (8-7-1-0 CCHA, 13-10-1 overall) vs./at FERRIS STATE (10-4-2-2, 16-6-2)
Where: Yost Ice Arena (game 1), Ewigleben Ice Arena (game 2)
When: FRIDAY and SATURDAY at 8:05 p.m.
TV:CBS College Sports
Live Blog: michigandaily.com
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When the teams step on the ice to face each other this weekend in a home-and-home series, they will see the mirror image of themselves. In all major statistical categories, the Wolverines and Bulldogs are no larger than eight places apart.
“I think it helps us,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We don’t think of them as similar. We think of them as being a top team and maybe the best team we’ve played in recent months.”
But it goes beyond just the numbers. Both teams rely heavily on their top line to score an inordinate amount of goals for them.
Juniors Carl Hagelin and Matt Rust have been the only two forwards scoring consistently all season for the Wolverines and increasing the point total for who plays with them on the right side. This week is freshman Kevin Lynch, who has played with the top line since the Great Lakes Invitational.
Ferris State’s top line of Blair Riley, Cody Chupp, and Casey Haines have scored just under 35% of the Bulldogs’ total goals.
With the Bulldogs’ prolific offensive players all on one line, the coaching staff will try to matchup the top lines as much as possible to limit the offensive chances.
“I don’t want to put an inexperienced player out there against the top player in the league and then expect us to win that matchup,” Berenson said. “We have to respect who is on the ice for them and who is on the ice for us.”
While the bright lights shine on the both teams respective top lines, it’s the players hiding in the darkness that could be the difference this weekend.
“You’re trying to outscore that line or shut them down,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “But in the meantime, if you do, and their nullifying you at the same time, then it comes down to your next line or your next line and where are you going to get your offense from?”
Secondary scoring is nothing new for the Wolverines during their recent success. The third and fourth lines contributed three of the Wolverines six even strength goals in last weekend’s series against Alaska. Two of those came from senior Brian Lebler who had just five goals coming into the weekend.
With Michigan still tinkering with its lines late in the season, the combination of secondary scorers will change this weekend. Freshmen Chris Brown and A.J. Treais will play alongside senior Brian Lebler to make up the third line, while juniors Ben Winnett and Scooter Vaughan will play with Lindsay Sparks.
Despite being on the bottom lines, Brown is third on the team in points while Sparks has six points in his last five games. If they can keep the momentum going, it could be a difference that the mirror can’t match.
“Any line can be the difference in the game,” Winnett said. “I think our line proved that last weekend in being able to get a couple of goals Friday night against Alaska. We have to go in with the mentality that every line could be the difference maker and that’s how we’re going to try and play this weekend.”