When two of college hockey’s most storied programs meet, there’s always a little extra buzz around the rink. But when Minnesota and No. 9 Michigan drop the puck at Yost Ice Arena on Friday night, it won’t be just a matchup of star talent and Big Ten contenders. It’s personal.

“We know Minnesota knocked us out of the Big Ten championship last year,” said senior forward Justin Selman. “They took away our chance to go the (NCAA) Tournament. There’s a little vengeance there.”

A lot has been said about the Wolverines’ tournament drought in the past three years, but now, Michigan (1-0-1 Big Ten, 8-2-3 overall) sees another chance to end that conversation.

The opportunity is even more important because the Gophers aren’t the same as they were last season.

Frankly, Minnesota looks to be a mediocre hockey team — maybe middle of the pack in the Big Ten, but not a NCAA title contender. The Gophers have no marquee wins on the season — a victory over No. 18 Notre Dame comes closest.

With all of the talent the program attracts, the situation is certainly a rarity, but one ripe for the taking by Michigan. The Big Ten is wide open this season, and it’s the best chance for the Wolverines to take the league title outright since the conference adopted hockey four seasons ago.

The Gophers took care of business in their opening series against Ohio State last weekend with two wins. Michigan, on the other hand, got a win in its first game against Wisconsin but needed a shootout to beat the Badgers last Saturday.

“Last weekend, I think a lot of guys got a good feel for what Big Ten hockey is like,” said sophomore defender Cutler Martin. “Wisconsin is picked to be last in the Big Ten, and we had a shootout win and a 6-4 victory.”

That left Minnesota (2-0, 6-7) sitting atop the division with Penn State, while the Wolverines were relegated to second place. It’s a difference of only one point, but Michigan needs to take every inch it can against an underwhelming conference.

“We really feel like Minnesota is a team we need to buckle down on,” Martin said. “The coaches don’t necessarily have to say it, but every player knows that this is a big week for us.”

The series will be a matchup of two very different playing styles. The Wolverines’ run-and-gun offense will match up against a team that ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in goals per game (2.77) and dead last in shots per game, averaging seven fewer than Michigan.

The Gophers are making up for the lack of shot production, at least in part, by shooting efficiently. Their mark of .095 goals per shot is near the top third of teams nationally and second in the Big Ten.

Swedish import Leon Bristedt is also making nice contributions on offense. The sophomore forward has 14 points despite posting just 19 all of last season.

If Minnesota takes advantage this weekend, though, it will start on the defensive end. Eric Schierhorn has been strong in net for Minnesota, playing nearly every minute and keeping a respectable .915 save percentage in spite of the troubled season.

Michigan has struggled to bring energy in a few home games this year, but Selman doesn’t figure that will be an issue Friday.

“If you can’t find a heartbeat in that game,” he said, “you’ve got to check your pulse.”

Instead, the challenge for the Wolverines will be to reign in opponent scoring. A lot of blame has fallen on the goaltenders so far this season, but the entire team will have to be held accountable on the defensive end.

Redemption chances don’t come around too often, and Michigan wants this one badly.

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