The Michigan Wolverines put together two strong performances this week against Arizona State, but only came away with one win and one tie. On Friday, Michigan scored the first three goals en route to a 4-1 victory. On Saturday, the Wolverines were similarly dominant in the offensive end but just couldn’t find a game-winning goal down the stretch. The second game ended in a 1-1 tie.
The offense was hungry
For the past couple weeks, we’ve been talking about Michigan needing to find the stamina to play well over both games of a series. Well, this series they had it. The Wolverines peppered Arizona State’s goal with 36 shots in the first game, leading to four goals. The corsi differential in this first game was an incredible 76-31, favoring the Wolverines. In the second game, Michigan increased their output to 42 shots. The Wolverines’ 18 shots in the third period of the second game was nearly 1.5 times Arizona State’s total game production of 13 shots. Michigan similarly owned the corsi differential in the second game, 61-31. However, all the shots and possession in the world don’t mean a thing if they aren’t converted into goals, which brings us to our next point.
Sometimes you just gotta finish
In addition to Michigan’s dominating offensive performance, the Wolverines defense was also as good as it has been all season. In the Friday game, Michigan held the Arizona State attack to just 20 shots. In the Saturday game, the Wolverines held Arizona State to just 13 shots—including the overtime period. Despite Michigan’s dominating performance in the second game, including a more than 3:1 shot advantage, the Wolverines weren’t able to come away with the win and series sweep. When the ice is that tilted in your favor, you have to win; you have to find a way to get the puck in the net. Unfortunately, Michigan couldn’t. Some credit is due to Arizona State’s goalie, Cole Brady, who stopped 41 of the 42 shots he faced. However, this will be a game that Michigan looks back on as a missed opportunity.
Wolverines improve, but still need wins
After this week’s results, the Wolverines have moved up one spot to No. 19 in the CollegeHockeyNews Pairwise Rankings. Unfortunately, that’s probably not enough movement for Michigan. After the six automatic bids for the NCAA Tournament are assigned through the various conference tournaments, Michigan will need to be one of the Top-10 remaining teams in order to earn an at-large bid. Of course, that assumes that the Wolverines don’t win the Big Ten Tournament. If they do, we can forget about all this hand-wringing and math. While Michigan has been consistently ranked highly in the polls this season, the selection committee’s criteria is based on comparison rankings—very similar to the pairwise rankings put together by CHN—and not where a team ranks in the polls. To climb enough to be in the conversation for an at-large big, the Wolverines probably need to win the rest of their games and then win a couple in the Big Ten Tournament—and even that may not be enough.
Michigan will be back in action at Minnesota next Friday and Saturday. Both games will begin at times yet to be announced, and will be broadcast on networks yet to be announced.