Michigan resumes conference play after an underwhelming showing at the GLI where they were shutout by Michigan Tech and barely hung on to beat a bad Michigan State team.
Minnesota is a good team. The Gophers always seem to ice a team that has a lineup balanced by an upperclassmen core complemented with talented underclassmen and this season is no different.
The core of Justin Kloos, Vinni Lettieri, Mike Szmatula and Leon Bristedt have paced a team that boasts the 5th highest goals per game average in the country (3.72) and the 5th best best power play (24.3%). Sophomore Tyler Sheehy is second in Big Ten scoring with a 12-13—25 line and Grand Rapids, Michigan, native Brent Gates Jr. has added nine goals.
Defensively the Gophers have been up and down this season in part due to blueline struggles as well as goalie miscues but they went into the break on a high note allowing six goals through their last four games.
It’s been a streaky year in net for Eric Schierhorn. He did not start the year well at all but he finished the first half strong and looks to round back into form after a much needed break.
Jake Bischoff is most capable offensve threat on the Gopher blueline posting a 2-14—16 line and has anchored the top pairing this season with Ryan Lindgren. Freshman Ryan Zuhlsdorf is the only other defenseman with more than one goal, however, Zuhlsdorf and Lindgren have been battling the flu and I’m not sure what their availability will be for this series.
If you’re still holding out hope that this team can turn it around then that makes this series a must-win. They’re in the last place that they wanted to be in at this point in the year: 1-3-0 in conference and playing at the venue that Michigan has had the least amount of success in since joining the Big Ten.
The Wolverines do not play well at Mariucci and it’s because of the wider ice surface. That extra ice is a trap for forwards who think they can blaze down the wing but these Minnesota defensemen know how to use the boards as an extra defender and sandwich them as they try to drive wide.
The Michigan defensemen have had equal struggles against this attack. The Gophers know how to use the space and they’re really good at using wide rushes to get the defensemen stretched out and open the middle of ice.
To make matters worse for the Wolverines, Michigan will be without Will Lockwood for this series.