As Michigan and North Dakota prepare for Thursday’s matchup in St. Paul, here are the keys to victory for both teams.

For North Dakota:

1. Get after Michigan netminder Shawn Hunwick early and often

After outscoring Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Denver 12-1 last weekend in the NCAA Midwest regional and regional final, North Dakota will need to continue its offensive outburst in St. Paul. The Fighting Sioux are second in the nation in team offense and are led by red-hot scorers Matt Frattin and Jason Gregiore, currently the second and ninth-leading goal scorers in the country with 36 and 25 goals, respectively.

Frattin and linemates Evan Trupp and Brad Malone have scored 69 goals this season and registered 11 points just last weekend. Hunwick has been a solid netminder for the Wolverines all season but let three goals slip by last weekend — two against Nebraska-Omaha and one against Colorado College. The senior has never played in a Frozen Four, and the Fighting Sioux should try to rattle him early.

2. Keep a one-game focus

Everyone at the Frozen Four can’t stop talking about the impressive numbers that the Fighting Sioux boast. They rank in the top-5 in the nation in goals for, goals against, scoring margin and penalty kill, and their power play sits in seventh. They have six players with more than 13 goals. Their netminder has 30 wins.

In Wednesday’s press conference, North Dakota assured the media that it is preparing for only Michigan, but it’s still hard to ignore the buzz surrounding this team. The Fighting Sioux have brought a business-trip attitude to St. Paul, but they need to make sure that they’re not overlooking their Thursday night date in favor of the national title game.

3. Listen to coach Dave Hakstol

Whatever Hakstol is doing behind the scenes and on the bench is working well for North Dakota. In his seventh season at the helm, Hakstol has led the program to five Frozen Four appearances and has helped North Dakota reach the NCAA Tournament all seven seasons.

He has led the team to three WCHA Final Five championship titles during his reign and has one WCHA Coach of the Year title. Hakstol has the North Dakota program on the fast track to being national title contenders each season in an extremely competitive conference. Whatever his game plan for Michigan is, it’s bound to be a good one.

For Michigan:

1. Ride whoever’s got the hot shot

As senior forward Louie Caporusso said Wednesday, “This isn’t a top-heavy type of team.” The Wolverines have received production from a variety of players this season and need to continue to score-by-committee to have a shot at cracking North Dakota, which boasts the No. 3 defense in the country.

While senior forward Carl Hagelin leads the team with 18 goals, Michigan needs to find ways to get the puck to whoever’s got some luck in St. Paul. Whether it’s a seeing-eye shot from the blue line from sophomore defenseman Lee Moffie or a toe-drag one-timer by senior forward Scooter Vaughan, the Wolverines need to utilize their balance on all four lines to wear down the Fighting Sioux.

2. Stay out of the penalty box

Last weekend in St. Louis, Michigan gave opponents 13 power play opportunities. While the Wolverines’ penalties allowed only one power play goal all weekend, it doesn’t change the fact that the more 5-on-5 hockey Michigan plays on Thursday, the better off it will be. Aside from fatiguing critical players on the penalty kill, spending too many minutes in the sin bin against a North Dakota power play (that converts at 23 percent) won’t give Hunwick much support.

3. Feed off the seniors

Michigan’s current senior class started its postseason careers as freshmen with a 4-3 overtime win against No. 2 Boston College at the Xcel Energy Center. And while the class that they started with has dwindled from 12 to seven, they’re going to be ultra-amped up for this game.

As freshmen, the same class made it to the Frozen Four, and fell one game short of the national championship game after losing to Notre Dame, 5-4, in overtime. The current seniors are the backbone of this team, and the rest of the Wolverines will need to grab some of their intensity if they want to advance to Saturday’s national title game.

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