Who: Michigan Wolverines (4-5, 0-1) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-7, 0-1)
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
When: April 5, 12:00 p.m. ET
Live Stats: Gametracker
Michigan's nine-point loss to the Maryland Terrapins last weekend was the third loss of nine points or more in 2015, all to teams ranked in the top-20 at the time. Notre Dame and Brown were the other two.
Sunday will be an opportunity to get back to the .500 mark overall and in the Big Ten, and they'll get to do it at home against a Rutgers team who is 2-2 on the road. Although they are 4-7 overall, I wouldn't sleep on the Scarlet Knights just yet. And I see some similarities to the Michigan program--struggling, but competitive.
Rutgers' last two losses were a one-pointer to No. 10 Princeton and a two-pointer against a then 3-5 Johns Hopkins team. Although the Jays are 4-5, playing them to within two is still an impressive feat for anyone.
On attack for Rutgers, it's all about junior Scott Bieda. After finishing 2014 ranked third in goals for the Knights, he is tied for the lead in '15 with 23 goals, but the the leader by far in points (39) thanks to a team-high 16 assists. Fellow attackman Christian Trasolini is the one tied with Bieda in goals and second in points (26). Add in senior midfielder Brian Goss and you have yourself three guys who can make things difficult for the Michigan defense.
In cage, the bulk of the minutes have gone to Kris Alleyne, who has has a GAAvg. of 10.55 and a save percentage of .448.
After facing Charlie Raffa last weekend, the face-off battle isn't going to get any easier for Michigan on Sunday. Rutgers ranks third in the country at the dot, winning 65% of their chances. Joe Nardella will get the chance to improve on his .682 win percentage against Brad Lott's .510 win percentage. Lott really struggled against Maryland, and if he does against the Knights, expect Chase Brown to fill in once again.
If there's one area where Michigan may be able to be at a distinct advantage is on the EMO. The Wolverines are scoring on 38% of the EMOs going their way (8-21), but Rutgers is allowing their opponents to convert 48% of the time (13-27), while converting only 26% of their own chances (8-31). So if Michigan can get Rutgers to commit fouls and have a guy in the sin bin, there's a great chance that a score will follow.
I honestly don't know how this is going to play out on Sunday, but with only three games to go after Sunday (Ohio State, Hopkins, and Penn State), the Wolverines really need the win if they want a shot at the Big Ten Tournament. I think the Maryland loss really hurt because of how limited the Michigan offense was--although Maryland has done that to everyone so far, so the Wolverines shouldn't feel embarrassed. How are they going to react to it? Will they come out flat, or will they come out ready to show that they are not going to be at the very bottom of the Big Ten? However, Ian King's absence is really hurting Michigan's offensive output. And since King is still out, I'm calling this one in favor of the Scarlet Knights by the slimmest of margins: Rutgers 9, Michigan 8.
Also at Michigan Stadium on Saturday, the men's and women's programs will be using the hashtag #Be1ForChange to bring awareness to relationship violence as a part of the Game for Change. Whether you are a fan of Michigan, Rutgers, or Duquesne, this is a cause that all fans can support.