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Michigan hockey welcomes undefeated Harvard to Yost for two games

After last weekend’s nightmare illness situation, Michigan will look to sweep a Harvard team facing their toughest test of the season.

2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship Photo by Damian Strohmeyer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Despite getting swept last weekend by No. 2 Minnesota, the Michigan Wolverines (9-5, 2-4) only fell from No. 3 to No. 5 in the latest polls. Voters — just like anyone with the power of sight — understood the uphill battle the Wolverines faced last weekend with six players missing due to illness in game one, and five missing in game two due to illness or injury.

The Wolverines put forth a heroic effort led by forward Dylan Duke, who scored four goals over the weekend to help keep Michigan competitive, but it wasn’t enough. But now with the expected return of several players, Michigan turns its attention to the undefeated No. 9 ranked Harvard Crimson (7-0).

Harvard is one of the surprise teams in the country and is the only undefeated team remaining. In large part due to its easy opening schedule, but undefeated nonetheless. The Wolverines were able to give Penn State their first loss of the season and would like to do the same to the Crimson, especially after being swept by Minnesota.

Harvard and Michigan are tied for the best scoring offense in the country, averaging 4.14 goals per game. The Crimson are paced by forward Matthew Coronato who is averaging 1.57 pointsvper game (third nationally) and the forward tandem of Sean Farrell and Alex Laferriere, who are both top 10 nationally in scoring as well.

Defensively, Harvard is the best scoring defense in the country, only allowing 1.43 goals per game. In net, the Crimson have Mitchell Gibson, whose .937 save percentage is good enough for fourth in the country.

On paper, Harvard resembles the 1980 Soviet Union, but this is a good time to remind you that Harvard has played one of the easiest schedules in the country. And while they are an explosive and well-rounded team, they will should not live up to these averages this weekend.

Keys to the Game

  • Health. The Wolverines will hopefully welcome back several players who were unable to play last week due to sickness, including forwards Adam Fantilli and TJ Hughes. With Michigan’s roster as close to healthy as possible, the Wolverines present a jump in competition for the Crimson equatable to going from Nebraska to Georgia in college football.
  • Fast start. Harvard is undefeated, but has not had to play the most difficult schedule up until this point. The jump in competition will cause an initial shock that the Wolverines should be able to take advantage of for their benefit. Furthermore, a fast start for players like Hughes and Fantilli who missed last week could help quickly alleviate any potential game rust.
  • Get Hughes his goal-scoring groove back. Luke Hughes was a national phenomenon last year, scoring 17 goals and dishing out 22 assists. His passing game has remained consistent (12 helpers through 14 games), but his goal scoring output has been shockingly low (2). The Wolverines desperately need Hughes to find his personal groove as a goal scorer if they are going to find their sustainable winning groove this season.
  • Portillo Problem? Goalie Erick Portillo has taken a step back this season, regardless if you factor in the defensive play in front of him or not. Portillo is missing routine saves and taking bad angles on shooters. His below average save percentage (.900) will not cut it and if he can’t show signs of improvement this weekend, it might be time to go to Noah West, who showed promise in his two starts at Penn State.
  • Almost desperation time. No one is holding last weekend against the Wolverines, but the record speaks for itself. Michigan currently has half as many conference losses and total losses as it did all of last season. The Wolverines’ five losses are the most by any team inside the top 10 and a split this weekend could drop them outside of it. Michigan has blown opportunities to sweep Boston University and Notre Dame, so this series is a chance to get right and make a statement to the rest of the country.

Game 1

WHEN: Friday, Nov. 25, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Yost Arena, Ann Arbor, MI


HOW TO LISTEN: Varsity Podcast Network

Game 2

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Yost Arena, Ann Arbor, MI


HOW TO LISTEN: Varsity Podcast Network