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March 06, 2006 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-06

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4B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 6, 2006





heartbreaker against the Bulldogs

All goalie Billy Sauer could do was stare at the ice after the Feb. 26 overtime loss to Ferris State as the Bulldogs celebrated after their win. Michigan must now forget the past and concentrate on this coming weekend's second-round playoff series against Ferris State.


By Daniel Levy
Daily Sports Writer
Do or die. Win or go home.
Last week's USCHO.com NCAA Tourna-
ment projections didn't include No. 14 Michi-
gan, the first time all season the Wolverines
had been absent from the bracket. But the
fallout from the weekend's action has the
Wolverines slotted as the 13th seed out of a
field of 16 teams - still anything but a lock
to make it.
That makes this weekend's best-of-three
series against Ferris State in the CCHA Tour-
nament quarterfinals the biggest games of the
year. All year long, the Wolverines clung to
their reputation and preseason hype, main-
taining a high ranking despite putting up a
9-12-4 record in the last three months.
Now the picture is clear. The voters are no
longer caught up in the Michigan tradition, or
the potential of a promising freshman class.
With a win, Michigan can breathe easy before
the official bracket is released. A loss would
likely leave the Wolverines on the outside
looking in - a fate almost unimaginable for
a team that climbed to the nation's top spot
in the polls on two separate occasions earlier
this year.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, this week-
end's must-win games will be played in the
friendly confines of Yost Ice Arena, where
they hold a 12-6-1 record. The Wolverines
took advantage of a first-round bye to get
some rest and regroup after a disappointing
Senior Night loss. The Bulldogs had to battle
a physical Ohio State team on Friday and Sat-
urday night's to get into this weekend's sec-
ond-round matchup.
Ferris State enters Friday night's game riding
a wave of momentum. The Bulldogs have won
three games in a row, a streak that began with
a4-3 overtime win on the Wolverines' Senior
Night. Michigan held a 3-0 lead after the sec-
ond period before falling apart in that game.
The two keys to the series will be goalten-
ding and first-strike offense. Bulldog goalie
Mitch O'Keefe refused to let Ferris State full
to Ohio State in the first round of the CCHA
Tournament, allowing just one goal in the
sweep. Meanwhile, the Wolverines have been
locked in a frustrating game of musical goal-

tenders all season long due to the inconsistent
play of both senior Noah Ruden and fresh-
man Billy Sauer. Michigan coach Red Beren-
son may not make a final decision as to who
will start until after Thursday's practice.
The first goal could determine who wins
each game. Despite losing to Forris State
after racing to a 3-0 lead, the Wolverines
hold a stellar 12-3-2 record when they get
on the board first. The Bulldogs are 11-5-7
when scoring first. Ferris State also holds
a 7-5 record in one-goal games compared
to Michigan's disappointing 3-5 mark - a
disturbing stat for the Wolverines given the
close nature of playoff games. After win-
ning the Mason Cup last year, the Wolverines
will need another string tournament to seal a
NCAA bid.
More quarterfinal action will take place
less than an hour away from Ann Arbor
where Michigan State will host Alaska-Fair-
banks inside East Lansing's Munn Ice Arena.
The Nanooks swept Notre Dame last week-
end. Their reward for advancing? A date with
one of the hottest teams in the nation. The
fourth-ranked Spartans have won six of their
last seven games - including a sweep of No.
2 Miami. Winning at Munn Ice Arena will
be a tough task for Alaska-Fairbanks. Spar-
tan goalie Jeff Lerg has been a wall in his
freshman season - posting an impressive
1.98 goals-against average. His cousin Bryan
Lerg is tied with captain Drew Miller for the
team high in points with 34. The duo leads
an offense that provides just enough scoring
- the Spartans average less than three goals
per game - for a smothering defense that
holds opponents to an average of 2.34 goals
per game. Even more impressive is Michigan
State's 10-4 record in one-goal games and its
11-4-3 home record.
There is no question that the Spartans will
make the NCAA tournament - right now
they are the fifth seed in the projected bracket
- but if they can stay hot and win the confer-
ence tournament, they have a shot at claiming
one of the four No. 1 seeds. Michigan State
took seven out of a possible eight point from
Alaska-Fairbanks during the regular season
and appears to be headed towards two more
victories over the Nanooks.
One of the most intriguing matchups in

the quarterfinals takes place in Oxford where
Miami hosts Western Michigan. Despite fin-
ishing 11th in the conference, the Broncos
went to Sault Ste. Marie and stunned the
home fans by sweeping the Lake Superior
State last weekend. Despite the first-round
success, Western Michigan has been abysmal
away from Lawson Arena - posting a 3-13-4
On the flip side, Miami won the CCHA
regular season title by a comfortable margin.
The RedHawks are 12-2-2 at home, including
a series sweep of the Broncos in January. Part
of Miami's No. 2 ranking and conference
championship can be attributed to a favor-
able schedule - it just faced Michigan and
Michigan State twice this season and didn't
have to travel to Ann Arbor - but there is no
question that it's a good team. The RedHawks
shouldn't have too much trouble getting by
the Broncos en route to the CCHA Finals.
The matchup between No. 12 Nebraska-
Omaha and Northern Michigan could be the
closest of the weekend. The two teams fin-
ished the regular season tied for fourth in the
conference, but Northern Michigan earned
the first-round bye by virtue of having more
CCHA wins. The Mavericks controlled their
own destiny, but a loss at Western Michi-
gan on the final day of the regular season
cost them third place in the conference and
a week of rest. Instead, Nebraska-Omaha
had to fend off a pesky Bowling Green team,
while Northern Michigan took time off to get
That loss may haunt the Mavericks this
weekend because the two teams will square
off in Marquette this weekend instead of
Omaha. The Mavericks did sweep the Wild-
cats in Marquette Feb. 10 and 11, and they
have the conference's top-scoring line with
Hobey Baker Award candidates Scott Parse
and Bill Thomas. But Northern Michigan is
tough to beat at home, and the extra week
off could make the difference in a physical
The winners of these series will advance
to the semifinals, to be played at Joe Louis
Arena. Matchups will be based on seeds,
with the top seed facing the lowest seed
regardless of how the bracket is drawn out.



Another winless weekend for Icers

This week, instead of grading different aspects of Michigan's game, the four Daily hockey writers will
assess the Wolverines' chances of repeating as Mason Cup champions.

Mark Giannotto

I can't see the Wolver-
ines dropping two out of .
three at Yost against Fer-
ris State next weekend.
But advancing past the
CCHA final four is asking
a lot out of a team that
has not played a complete
hockey game since the
month of December.
Michigan will get past
the Bulldogs, and I can
see them reaching the
finals, even if they have
to face Michigan State.
But a possible matchup
up in the final against

H. Jose Bosch

The Wolverines will take
two out of three against
Ferris State. Before the
season, this reporter
picked Michigan to win
the Mason Cup, and I still
believe it. But it's going
to take a lot of luck. And
come playoff time, its bet-
ter to be lucky than good.
The Wolverines should bounce
back from a disappointing
Senior Night to beat Ferris
State. But they will probably
have to face a red-hot Spar-
tan team in the CHHA final
four. Michigan hasn't beaten

Continued from page 1B
at 6:38 turned a one-sided affair into a
grind-it-out war. The Wolverines futility
attempted to keep the game from getting
away with only four shots on net in the
final frame.
Then at 15:21, Ferris State's Corey
Couturier picked up a loose puck at
mid ice and skated alone towards Sauer
before putting it past the freshman to tie
the game and send the Bulldogs fans into
a frenzy.
Ferris State needed only 42 seconds of
overtime to win the game. Another Mich-
igan turnover at the point of the Wolver-

; -

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.Sir ~


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