When $12 tickets are going on eBay for more than $100, you’ve got a big event on your hands.
And when the tickets are for a college hockey game in Oxford, Ohio, something gigantic must be happening.
That’s certainly the case for this weekend’s showdown between No. 1 Miami (Ohio) and No. 2 Michigan, which begins tonight at Steve Cady Arena.
Even for a top-tier showdown between Michigan and a school in southern Ohio, this one may be just a bit too hyped.
“I’m trying to sell my tickets right now,” senior alternate captain Chad Kolarik joked. “I wouldn’t pay that much to see a college hockey game – especially when it’s on TV.”
Still, it’s hard not to get excited for the weekend, considering it will be the only time the Wolverines and RedHawks meet in the regular season. Either Michigan or Miami has held the No. 1 ranking in national polls for most of the season.
The stats suggest this matchup will be as big as the hype. Miami and Michigan are the top teams in the country in both goals for and goals against. Miami goalie Jeff Zatkoff and Michigan goalie Billy Sauer are first and second in both goals against average and save percentage.
But because Michigan is coming into the series with a four-game winless streak, Michigan coach Red Berenson isn’t convinced the teams are as close as the numbers indicate.
“They’re obviously a top team, so it’s a big test for us,” Berenson said. “We’re just trying to get better. We’re trying to get back up to where we need to be to even compete against a team like that.”
Competing against No. 1 teams is something Michigan has struggled with in recent seasons. In the last 10 years, Michigan has played eight games against top-ranked teams. They’ve won just once (2001 against Michigan State).
But Michigan might actually have a psychological advantage playing against Miami. For the first time this season, the Wolverines are the clear underdogs. After struggling against a lesser Northern Michigan team last weekend, the new role is a welcome change for the Wolverines.
“Before, we were expected to win,” Kolarik said. “Right now, we’re expected to lose. We’ve got to play with a little desperation down there.”
Michigan plans to come out with a more physical style of play than it has shown in recent weekends. The hope is that the hard hitting will lead to an early goal, which will take the RedHawk fans out of the game.
Most importantly, the Wolverines can’t let their opponents or the hype surrounding the weekend dictate the game they play. “This weekend’s definitely going to be a big weekend, but we’ve got to stay focused in the dressing room,” freshman Louie Caporusso said.
Michigan made it to No. 1 by playing its own game on its own terms. It will have to do the same to get back to the top.