Michigan is for sure a tough team, currently ranked #5 on INCH's preseason rankings. But this is a team that can be beaten. The Nanooks did it last season. In the first meeting in November of last year, Michigan came to Fairbanks and were defeated in the first contest 4-1. My my my, was that a big win. First year head coach Dallas Ferguson takes down Red Berenson's Wolverines. Granted, we lost the second game 3-2, but that may prove my point. We might actually win the first one.
I've been following Michigan's Twitter feed for the last few days. While not on tourist trips to Alyeska resort, they have actually been in Anchorage since Wednesday, so they have had a few chances to play, and a bit of time to get over the jet lag.
One of the big advantages that helps us, is Michigan's loss of one of their top scorers, Aaron Palushaj. Not sure where he went, but he's not on the team. Which is a good thing, because it was his passing skills that got Michigan 2 of the 3 goals in the second game last year. But we can't forget about Louie Caporusso.
As a sophomore last year, he was a top-10 Hobey Baker finalist right alongside Chad Johnson. He posted a 49 point season last year, netting a team leading 24 goals and 25 assists. In the CCHA semi-finals last year, which is our most recent encounter with the guys in the ugly blue helmets, the 'Nooks skated right with them all the way. The Nanooks posted the only even-strength goal of the game, as all 3 of Michigan's goals were scored on the power play. And all 3 of the goals that they scored, Caporusso had a hand in it, finishing with 1 goal, and 2 assists.
That proves my point though, we can not give Michigan ANY chances. They were great on the power play last season, especially late in the season, as they showed us in Detroit. Last season, the Nanooks posted a tied-for-third-best 88.1 power play kill percentage (ironically tied with Michigan), but Michigan's strong(er) power play percentage bested us in that game.
Minimizing mistakes is key. Don't lose the puck, control the pass, stay out of the penalty box, and playing disciplined, strong hockey will win this game for the Nanooks. We can keep up with them, and we're heavier than them (actually, heavier than almost everybody). And in my opinion, we can beat this team.
A David vs. Goliath story maybe, but not as fabled. Michigan isn't as tough as they look. We've beaten them before, and we can beat them again. A team that averaged 1.94 goals per game last year, worst in the CCHA, posted 7 goals in 3 games against against the Wolverines for a 2 and 1/3rd goals per game average.
My take: I see this panning out one of two ways.
Nanooks win 3-1 in regulation, or the game ties at 2-2 through overtime, and Nanooks win in the shootout 2-1 to win the game.