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Michigan hockey prepares for showdown with No. 2 Minnesota

The Wolverines will welcome their highly touted conference rival to Yost tonight.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Have you had trouble sleeping with the looming No. 2 vs. No. 3 colossal clash happening in Columbus in nine days? Allow me to offer you an appetizer of sorts happening tonight and tomorrow on the ice as the No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines (9-3) welcome the No. 2 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4) to Yost Arena for a battle of early season superiority.

Last season, Michigan and Minnesota split their regular season series two games apiece, but the Gophers had the upper hand down the stretch and captured the regular season Big Ten title. However, the Wolverines exacted revenge by winning the Big Ten Tournament crown and did so by defeating Minnesota in the championship game.

Both teams advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four last year, but both were left on the outside of the championship game between Denver and Minnesota State. This year, it appears the two teams are headed for similar or higher trajectories than last season.

Minnesota is led by 2022 Big Ten Player of the Year, defenseman Brock Faber (1 G, 6 A, 14 PTS) and preseason unanimous All Big Ten selection, forward Matthew Knies (7 G, 4 A, 11 PTS). The Gophers have a balanced attack featuring five players with 10 or more points, including the team’s leading scorer Jimmy Snuggerud with 12 points.

In net, Justen Close is one of the most experienced goaltenders in the conference and is currently fourth in the conference with a .923 save percentage. Close was an NCAA Tournament All-Regional selection last year and was the backbone of a nine-game winning streak for the Gophers that propelled them to the Big Ten regular season title.

Minnesota represents the best combination of talent and experience the Wolverines have faced this year, and this first series against the Gophers is a chance to get a leg up on them in the Big Ten standings.


  • FINISH, FINISH, FINISH! The Wolverines have blown two-goal leads this season — some games they have managed to win, some they have managed to lose — and it is a trend that needs to cease if Michigan is going to contend for the Big Ten this year. A true sign of a young team is inconsistency, and the Wolverines have displayed that in spades throughout the first nine games. This young squad showed the ability to finish emphatically in game one against Notre Dame, but reverted back to bad habits in the second game once up two goals. In order to beat Minnesota, it’s going to take a full 60 minutes.
  • Powerful power play - Michigan is currently the second-most efficient power play unit in the country and one of the hottest at this given moment. The combination of Adam Fantilli-Mackie Samoskevich-Dylan Duke-TJ Hughes-Luke Hughes has been devastating and if they can see the ice four or more times in each game this week, this team’s scoring output will be difficult to keep up with.
  • Face-off Control - One of the biggest weaknesses of this team this year is their inefficiency in the face-off circle. As a team, the Wolverines are currently ranked No. 39 out of 60 teams, and compare this drop-off to last year when Michigan was one of the best in the country. Fantilli has been adequate in the circle with 121 wins (No. 19 individually), but no other Wolverines has moved inside the top-50. Against an experienced team like Minnesota, Michigan must take advantage of every draw and control the puck in five-on-five situations.


WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 16, 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Yost Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.

HOW TO WATCH: Big Ten Network

HOW TO LISTEN: Varsity Podcast Network


WHEN: Friday, Nov. 17, 6 p.m.

WHERE: Yost Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.

HOW TO WATCH: Big Ten Network

HOW TO LISTEN: Varsity Podcast Network