Who: #6 Michigan at Wisconsin
Where: The Kohl Center
When: 7:00pm CT Friday and Saturday
It's hard to believe that there's only one more month left in the regular season but here we are with Michigan entering the home stretch.
This series is very important for the Wolverines, who are tied for first in the Big Ten with Minnesota. Michigan will play Wisconsin, Minnesota at Mariucci and Ohio State before the regular season finale at Yost against Penn State. Minnesota, on the other hand, will only play two games against a team with a winning record the rest of the way and it's Michigan.
The Wolverines very much control their own destiny in the conference title race. To keep it that way they'll have to leave Madison with two wins.
Wisconsin is still building. The Badgers have young players in key positions and as a result have staggered to a 6-12-6 overall record and a 1-7-2 conference record.
Led by junior Grant Besse the Badgers are 34th in the country scoring 2.62 goals per game. The Badgers are a young team and have experienced their share of growing pains but they have a core of future stars at forward. Luke Kunin and Seamus Malone have quietly become two of the best freshman in the conference and fellow freshman Matthew Freytag has six goals, with two of those goals coming against Michigan back in December.
The Badgers also boast a group of talented sophomore forwards in Adam Rockwood, Cameron Hughes and Ryan Wagner.
On the blueline the Badgers haven't fared well ranking 53rd in goals allowed giving up 3.54 per game. Kevin Schulze and Eddie Wittchow are the two upperclassmen in the group, followed by sophomores Jake Linhart, Tim Davison and Jake Bunz. Linhart and Davison have both put up surprising offensive numbers combining to score twelve goals.
In net freshman goaltender Matt Jurusik has posted an .892 sv% and a 3.38 goals against.
One area Wisconsin has excelled in is their special teams. The Wisconsin power play ranks 20th in the country converting at 20.24% and the penalty kill is 12th killing penalties at an 84% rate.
The Kohl Center is a difficult building to play in and at times the Wolverines have struggled playing on bigger ice sheets. The ice surface at the Kohl Center is twelve feet wider than Yost so the Wolverines have moved over to the Ann Arbor Cube for practice.
You would think this matchup would be all in Michigan's favor with the skill they have at forward, but we've seen in year's past how the Wolverine forwards can contained if they try too hard to go wide and end up being funneled into the boards.
On the blueline the adjustment for Michigan's defensemen will be a little more difficult. Gap control will be key and they'll need to make sure the first few shots that get to Steve Racine are easy as the angles and positioning for a goalie are different on this ice surface.