University of Michigan Wolverines
1 seed vs. Air Force, East Regional (Bridgeport, CT)
3:00 EDT, Friday, March 27, ESPNU
Coach: Red Berenson (673-309-68)
Bizarrely, this qualifies as a hard-luck season for the Wolverines, despite the shiny Pairwise ranking they've secured. In the first period of the first game of the year, 2007-2008 INCH Defenseman of the year Mark Mitera went down with a torn ACL. After the next night's game, fellow blueline anchor Steve Kampfer suffered a fractured sckull in an off-ice attack. Freshman defenseman Brandon Burlon missed 8 games at the beginning of the year with a high ankle sprain. In two critical late-season CCHA games, Michigan had a total of four controversial goal calls go against them in 3-2 losses versus Notre Dame and Ohio State. In each game, a goal that appeared to be kicked in was allowed for their opponent, while Michigan had a goal of their own waved off (Versus Notre Dame, an early whistle. Versus OSU, no available replay angle to overturn a call that a puck was gloved in). Luckily for the CCHA officials, the effects of these games were largely rendered moot when Michigan gave up 5 unanswered goals in the CCHA tournament final to Notre Dame and lost 5-2.
At the beginning of the season, this Michigan team faced the daunting task of replacing the production of last year's entire top line. Chad Kolarik and Hobey Baker winner Kevin Porter were lost to graduation, while freshman Max Pacioretty left to sign with the Montreal Canadiens. Those players were responsible for 78 goals and 80 assists on a team that won the 2008 GLI, CCHA regular season title, CCHA conference tournament, and fought its way to the Frozen Four before a heartbreaking overtime loss to Notre Dame.
While the current Wolverines are off by about 10 goals from last year's total at this time, they've tightened up their defense in equal measure. Following a 9-7 start to the year with a depleted defensive corps, the Wolverines have come on strong, posting a 20-4-0 record since, which includes the dubious pair of games previously mentioned. The previously mentioned beating by the Irish in the CCHA final raises some doubts, but the Wolverines had seemed to be on a roll. They have both the offense and the defense to hang with any team in the nation, it's just a matter of putting it all together.
Binary Results. Michigan is the only team in the country without a tie in its record. Michigan never even went to overtime, making it the only team in the CCHA not to use the shootout to determine a game result.
Statistical Fluke. At the beginning of the season, senior goalie Billy Sauer, who last year set the school record for save percentage in a season, was in a Friday-Saturday rotation with sophomore Bryan Hogan. During the first 16 games, Sauer and Hogan put up similar numbers in net. However, in the games Hogan played, the Wolverines scored 37 goals, while Sauer received only an anemic 10. The rotation was abandoned. In the second half of the season, Sauer started 3 games and won them all: 1-0 @ Bowling Green, 4-2 vs. Nebraska-Omaha, and 4-0 vs. Ferris State.
The Cold War II: Colder War. Michigan and Wisconsin will face off next February at a game to be played in Madison at Camp Randall Stadium. A sellout crowd would bring 83,000 fans to the game, shattering the record set by Michigan and Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in !2001. Discussions are also underway about holding a game at Michigan Stadium in December 2010 following the completion of renovations to the Big House. A turnout of 110,000+ would put the record out of the reach of all but a handful of stadia around the world.