Down four goals in the third period against Miami (Ohio) earlier this season, the Wolverines saw their aggressive strategy go haywire.

Matchup: Alaska (7-6-3-3 CCHA, 10-6-4 overall) at Michigan (7-7, 12-10)

Where: Yost Ice Arena

When: Friday and Saturday at 7:35 p.m.


Live Blog:

Partly due to a loss of composure on defense, Michigan (7-7 CCHA, 12-10 overall) tallied a hefty 65 penalty minutes against the RedHawks, with 51 of those in that final, frustrating period.

This weekend, the Wolverines take on an opponent in Alaska (7-6-3-3, 10-6-4) that has seen the exact opposite fate when it comes to time in the box. The Nanooks have registered the fewest penalty minutes in Division-I hockey this season.

And with Alaska’s slow, bothersome style of play, which employs the trap, it will take a great deal of focus for Michigan to be successful this weekend.

“You look at their team, and they’re literally the mirror of our team,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We’ve got an edge on the PK, they’ve got an edge on the power play. Goals scored, goals against … there’s not much to choose between the teams.”

But when it comes to the vast disparity in penalty minutes, Berenson isn’t very pleased with his team’s distinction as the ninth-most penalized team per game in the NCAA.

“That’s not a flattering stat,” Berenson said. “Our goal at the start of the year was supposed to be the least penalized team. What do we have to do? We have to really pay attention to our penalty minutes. Penalties are like goals, they’re a huge part of the game.”

The series with the Nanooks is the Wolverines’ second this season, after they traveled to Anchorage at the beginning of October and came up empty on the score sheet, losing 2-0.

With that experience, Michigan knows exactly how effective Alaska’s trap can be at limiting scoring opportunities. But none of the players believe that experience will give them any advantage in such an important CCHA matchup.

“To be honest, nothing has really changed,” junior forward Matt Rust said. “They’re always a solid defensive team. You know what you’re going to get from them every single game. It’s going to be a defensive battle.”

And with three years under his belt, Rust, along with the rest of the veteran Wolverines, isn’t expecting many scoring chances on goalie Scott Greenham.

“Every game against Alaska in my career here has been 2-1 or 3-2, low-scoring games,” Rust said. “Getting precious goals is huge.”

But keeping the Nanooks from maintaining the man advantage or even the 3-on-5, which Michigan was forced to kill last weekend against Western Michigan, could be key for the Wolverines, as they seek their first two-sweep streak of the season.

And with this weekend’s series, Michigan begins a tough stretch that includes series’ against three of the CCHA’s top four teams — Alaska, Ferris State and Michigan State.

That stretch is capped off with a matchup against No. 3 Wisconsin at the Camp Randall Classic, playing outdoors at the Badgers’ football stadium.

Two wins in front of the home crowd in the season’s final two months could mean the difference between an NCAA Tournament at-large bid and a long, lonely March.

After starting off slow, Michigan is looking for a similar second half to what they experienced last season, losing only three games after the Great Lakes Invitational.

“Every year (at this time) it’s like pulling teeth.,” Berenson said. “We might look back at it two months from now and we might’ve one two (series) in a row. Every game is going to be a battle. But the only way we’re going anywhere is to be consistent.”

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