Who: #6 Michigan at #20 Minnesota
Where: Mariucci Arena
When: Thursday, 7:30 CT - Friday 8:00 CT
Earlier in the year the two teams split at Yost; Michigan won the first game 8-3 and lost the second 3-2.
The Gophers had a disastrous non-conference schedule that yielded a 5-10-0 record, but they were able to put it together in Big Ten conference play going 11-3-0. The Gophers now find themselves in the drivers seat to win their third consecutive Big Ten regular season title.
What's at Stake
If the Wolverines are going to win their first Big Ten regular season title they must win both games in this series. As of now Michigan sits 1 point behind Minnesota and still has to play a home-and-home with Ohio State before finishing against Penn State. The Gophers, on the other hand, will play Michigan State at Munn and Wisconsin at Mariucci.
The Gophers claim the 9th ranked offense in the country scoring 3.38 goals per game and the 16th ranked power play. Three Minnesota forwards have cracked the 30 point mark this season; Hudson Fasching leads the team with an 18-15--33 line, Leon Bristedt has fifteen markers and Justin Kloos has fourteen. Not far behind, freshman Tyler Sheehy has recorded 11.
This blueline is not short on talent but struggled early on to clear the area in front of their net. Lately though, Minnesota has improved on the back end and goaltender Eric Schierhorn has been a big part of that. Since a December 12th win at Michigan goaltender Schierhorn has won 9 games and has become more consistent between the pipes.
There are six games left in the regular season and Michigan's video game offense hasn't regressed to the mean, so there's no reason to believe that this weekend will feature a defensive showdown. Kyle Connor and Tyler Motte are the 1A and 1B choices for the Hobey Baker right now and a good series will all but cement one as the winner.
Michigan's blueline has appeared to turn a corner. Nolan De Jong and Mike Downing are playing their best stretches of hockey as Wolverines; Sam Piazza has finally entered the lineup and given the Wolverines a second shifty, puck moving defenseman.