Things are simple for No. 15 Michigan: beat Ferris State in a best-of-three home series this weekend and advance to the CCHA Final Four, sealing an NCAA Tournament bid in the process. Losing to the Bulldogs would not only be embarrassing for the Wolverines; bowing out would likely bring a disappointing end to an up-and-down season.
“If we lose this weekend we’re done,” Michigan captain Andrew Ebbett said. “We know that, and the coaches have addressed that.”
But the scenario isn’t new to Michigan. The team has known for two weeks – following a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to Ferris State at Yost Ice Arena on Senior Night – that its quarterfinal matchup in the CCHA Tournament would be a do-or-die situation. All that was left to be determined was who the opponent would be.
The Bulldogs put a bitter end to Michigan’s regular season, and, as fate would have it, Ferris State will have a chance to leave an even more foul taste in the Wolverines’ mouths if it can repeat its earlier success at Yost and end Michigan’s season.
A rematch with Ferris State should be a blessing for the Wolverines. Instead of getting caught up in the pressure of a must-win game, Michigan can focus on a more natural goal: good old-fashioned revenge.
“We want a chance to pay them back,” Ebbett said. “They cost us Senior Night and cost us that win which hurt us in the national rankings.”
Despite its youth and inexperience, Michigan is not worried about falling flat in its biggest game of the year. The veterans have tournament experience, and most of the freshmen – despite experiencing the college postseason for the first time – have played important playoff games in other leagues before coming to Ann Arbor. The past week of practice has been productive, and the Wolverines hope their preparation will lead to results on the ice this weekend.
“The intensity I saw today (was great),” Ebbett said. “Guys were focused and ready to go, and I think that’s the key word for us this week is to be focused.”
Fantastic Frosh: Michigan grabbed two of the six spots on the CCHA All-Rookie team when freshmen Andrew Cogliano and Jack Johnson were named to the squad yesterday. The announcement wasn’t much of a shock, considering both players were first-round draft picks in last summer’s NHL draft. Cogliano was one of three forwards honored, along with Notre Dame’s Eric Condra and Ferris State’s Dan Riedel. Johnson joined Alaska-Fairbanks’s Tyler Eckford in the defensive pair, and Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg rounded out the team.
Happy Returns: While Cogliano and Johnson were both honored yesterday, the best news on the Wolverines’ freshman front might be the return of Jason Bailey to full-contact practice. Bailey has been out of action since being knocked out in Michigan’s 7-3 home win over Western Michigan on Jan. 31. Feeling ill effects after finding himself on the wrong end of a monster hit, the forward was unable to even skate with the team for most of the past six weeks. Bailey is finally starting to feel better, and his possible return could bolster Michigan’s slumping third or fourth line.
“If I get the chance to play (this weekend), I think I’ll be more than ready,” Bailey said. “It’s playoff time, and there are no excuses. However you want to play is how you’re going to play.”