When Michigan and Michigan State square off, there’s
usually more than just state bragging rights on the line. The
matchup often plays a big factor in determining CCHA supremacy, and
this weekend’s series is no different.

With a single win, the CCHA regular season title will belong to
the Wolverines. Michigan currently leads second-place Miami by just
two points. The Spartans sit in third, two points behind the
RedHawks.

With the series set to begin tomorrow, The Michigan
Daily’s hockey professors (a.k.a.. the hockey beat writers)
are here to break down the matchups.

Prof. Michael Nisson on Michigan’s offense vs. Michigan
State’s defense:

On paper, this matchup between Michigan’s offense and
Michigan State’s defense looks very intriguing. Both units
are ranked No. 1 in the CCHA. The Spartans allow 2.16 goals per
game, while the Wolverines have averaged 3.71 each contest. So
something has to give.

Until last weekend, the Michigan offense was sizzling. In the
three games prior to the Notre Dame series, the Wolverines averaged
a blistering 6.67 goals per game. And it wasn’t a single line
doing all the work. Ten different players scored goals in the three
games.

The Spartans have allowed two or fewer goals in 16 of their 28
CCHA games this season. Two of Michigan State’s seven
shutouts this season came last weekend against Nebraska-Omaha.
Another shutout came against Michigan in East Lansing on Dec.
6.

Advantage: Michigan State

Prof. Brian Schick on Michigan’s defense vs. Michigan
State’s offense:

When these two teams last met, the home-and-home series was very
low-scoring, and the home team in each game won 2-0. Even though
they lost the game, the Michigan defense held the Spartans to 17
shots in East Lansing — including just four in the third
period. Since then, Michigan’s blueliners have steadily
increased their plus/minus rating, and, over the conference year,
Michigan has allowed just over two goals per game, second best in
the conference. Freshman Matt Hunwick leads all Michigan defenders
at +15.

Michigan will need to shut down the Spartans’ top line of
David Booth, Mike Lalonde and Jim Slater. The trio has combined for
43 of Michigan State’s 119 total goals. Booth scored the lone
even-strength goal the last time these teams met, but Michigan was
able to shut down Michigan State’s other three lines. If
Michigan contains the Spartans’ top line, it should be in
great shape to win.

Advantage: Michigan

Prof. Gennaro Filice on Special Teams:

Looking over the entire season, Michigan has the obvious
advantage when it’s on the powerplay. The Wolverines lead the
CCHA in extra-man percentage (.219). In their last three games,
though, the Wolverines have struggled, scoring in just in 2 of 22
powerplays. During this drought Michigan has created plenty of
quality chances, but hasn’t been able to put the puck in the
net. After a slow start to the season, the Michigan State penalty
kill has really picked it up recently. In the last 10 games, the
Spartans have given up just two goals in 43 opponent
powerplays.

When they’ve enjoyed a man-advantage, the Spartans have
been fairly successful. But their powerplay opportunities have been
limited — 46 less than Michigan’s total. The penalty
kill is the Wolverines’ Achilles heel. This special teams
matchup comes down to how many times Michigan State can get the
extra attacker.

Advantage: Michigan

Prof. Sharad Mattu on Goaltending:

Al Montoya, who injured his hamstring during Friday’s loss
to Notre Dame, practiced yesterday for the first time this week and
should be ready for Friday. And it’s important that
he’s ready to go because the Spartans’ Dominic Vicari
has been tremendous all season long. The freshman’s 1.87
goals against average, .933 save percentage and six shutouts lead
the CCHA. And he wasn’t even the starter at the beginning of
the season.

An interesting, unrelated side note is that Stan Matwijiw,
Michigan’s goaltending coach, was Vicari’s personal
coach in high school before Vicari went to Michigan State.

Though Montoya’s statistics (2.31 GAA, .913 save pct. and
five shutouts) don’t quite match up with Vicari’s, he
is battle-tested. He dominated last year’s CCHA Super Six and
NCAA Regional, so the regular-season finale definitely won’t
faze him.

Advantage: Even

 

Weekend predictions:

Friday at Michigan State’s Munn Ice Arena: Michigan State
2, Michigan 1

Saturday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit: Michigan 3, Michigan
State 1

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