|Ohio State (8-4-0) at #3 Michigan (8-2-1)|
|11/29/13 At Yost Ice Arena - 12/2/13 at Value City Arena|
|7:00pm (Big Ten Network) - 7:00pm (FS Detroit)|
Michigan and Ohio State open Big Ten play Friday night at Yost before finishing off the series Monday night in Columbus. Both teams got a tuneup last weekend with the Wolverines taking care of business against Niagara, while the Buckeyes swept Canisius.
At first glance the records and statistics make this look like an even matchup, but not all records are created equally. Ohio State has won eight games, but six of those wins came against teams under .5000 RPI. The Buckeyes have only left Columbus three times this season and have a road record of 1-2-0, with the lone win coming against Robert Morris. Unfortunately as we all know, this information is meaningless because this is a rivalry game.
|Team Offense||Power Play|
|3.58 GPG, 9th NCAA||10-of-63, 15.87% - 42nd NCAA|
Ohio State returns most of the forwards from their 2012 team; while that team didn't finish the season above .500 this is still a good group of forwards who played well in the CCHA and will continue to play well in the Big Ten. Ryan Dzingel returns for his junior season after leading the Buckeyes in scoring the previous year and he's gotten off to a red hot start with seven goals, tied with Michigan's Andrew Copp for first in the conference. Max McMormick, Alex Szczechura and Tanner Fritz have started where they left off scoring last year.
Michigan needs to be ready for a physical high energy game. The Buckeyes aren't looking to play a finesse game against the Wolverines, they're going to forecheck hard and grind this out around the blue paint. Michigan's blueline has been shaky on the lower pairs; bad turnovers and bad decisions with the puck have left Wolverine goaltenders out to dry, without incredible play in net from Zach Nagelvoort and Steve Racine we would not be ranked #3 in the nation.
Brennen Serville will not play and with Kevin Lohan injured that leaves Michigan without another right handed defensemen, the left handed Mike Szuma will presumably be playing on the right side. I don't know if Mike Szuma has played the right side before but it can be difficult; playing on the opposite side on the offensive zone boards requires a defensemen to handle the puck on his backhand and bring it back to his forehand in one motion. It doesn't sound like much but a lot of players can't do it. If the coaches aren't comfortable with this a right handed forward could be moved up.
|Team Defense||Penalty Kill|
|2.75 GPG, 30th NCAA||42-of-53, 79.2% - 42nd NCAA|
The Ohio State blueline features a balanced mix of youth and upperclassmen. Dalrymple and DaSilva lead the group and have been the units most productive scorers, the freshman Drew Brevig and Josh Healey have also played well. As long as we have our heads on straight this matchup heavily favors Michigan; the Wolverines have the tendency to fall into a finesse game and not be able to break out of it, but if we're getting out in transition and making the right plays the puck is going to find the net.
Going into the Niagara series Michigan had big scorers not finding the net, Alex Guptill broke his slump with a two goal night now it's time for Boo Nieves to break his. Tyler Motte and JT Compher continue to produce regardless of what line they play on, and Phil Di Giuseppe appears to be finding his scoring touch again. The Wolverines are going to roll out three scoring lines and Ohio State does not have enough talent on the blueline to keep up, but as we have seen before and will see again Michigan still has to beat themselves.
The goalie situation is up in the air right now for the Buckeyes. After losing starts to Matt Tomkins backup Collin Olson transferred, one week later Tomkins injured his leg in the Niagara series and hasn't played since. While the outlook was not favorable for OSU at first the injury to Tomkins doesn't seem to be as bad as they thought, Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik has told the media that he will be a game time decision.
If Tomkins can't go walk-on freshman Logan Davis will get the start. He has played well in three games this year against Niagara and Canisius.
I always second guess myself when I make these predictions because I'm usually wrong. I will be nervous approaching the game and until it's over, but that's how I always am. This isn't the series I'm worried about Michigan losing. Miami is the only team Ohio State has seen this year who comes close to Michigan's talent level and they blew the Buckeyes out; Miami has four NHL draft picks on their roster, Michigan has twelve. I can't see an outcome playing out where a freshman goalie beats this Michigan team. Stay out of the box and don't make me eat my words Tuesday morning.
Michigan 4 - Ohio State 1
Michigan 3 - Ohio State 2