Who: #12 Michigan (16-8-0) at Minnesota (14-9-3)
Where: Mariucci Arena
When: 2/13/15, 8:00CT, BTN - 2/14/15, 7:00CT, FSD+
Things have changed quite a bit for both teams since they last met. Michigan used a sweep of the Gophers to put themselves back into at-large territory, while Minnesota has slid to the edge of the pairwise bubble with two losses in the North Star Cup and two ties against Wisconsin.
At forward the upperclassmen lead the way, headed by leading goal scorer Travis Boyd (13), Kyle Rau and Sam Warning. Their sophomore class has been equally impressive led by Justin Kloos, Connor Reilly and Hudson Fasching. Senior Seth Ambroz has also heated up with 5 goals and 3 assists in his last six games.
With their offensive mentality this team isn't much different from Michigan. They have a bigger ice sheet and use it to their advantage; they like to get out in transition, move the puck well and their forwards do a good job finding empty spaces in team's rush coverage.
On the back end is where the letdown has come from during this recent slide. There's a lot of talent here but they seem to be underperforming at times this season, which is a bit of a head scratcher with junior goaltender Adam Wilcox in net.
Brady Skjei is the guy here. He was coming off an injury the last time these teams met, but he's in the running for top shutdown defenseman in the league. Ben Marshall and Mike Reilly are the other two upperclassmen who get minutes.
Michigan's high flying offense has cooled off by their standards after a 1 goal game against MSU and 4 goal game that was capped off with an empty netter, but the blueline and goaltending situations have improved enough to think that maybe they've turned the corner.
Offensively, Michigan will get chances to score. The questions regarding their output will center around a few different issues. How long will it take to adjust to the bigger ice size, how do they respond if Adam Wilcox is his usual self and can Michigan keep up with Minnesota running a 3 center lineup?
There is still too much aggression in transition, but the Michigan defensemen have done a better job for the most part staying in their lanes and letting the game come to them. Cutler Martin and Zach Werenski both have made impacts on the defensive end and Mike Downing is rounding into a solid all around player. Hopefully, Zach Nagelvoort has shaken off early season struggles and locked down the starting job.
Both teams are in must-win territory. The situation isn't as dire for the Wolverines, who can put themselves in a comfortable position with a quality road win, but for the Gophers they need to take at least one. Michigan will need to be ready to play a desperate team in a rocking road environment.