#1 seed Michigan and #4 seed Cornell face off for the first time since a 1997 tie in Ann Arbor and the first time in the NCAA since 1991 when the Wolverines won a best-of-three series 2-1.  It was Michigan’s first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1977 and marked a turning point in the program, not only on the ice but off the ice

“(The Cornell fans) were loud and they got their message across, and I think the fans kind of took it as a challenge,” Thullen said. “We’re the ones with the intimidating building. We’re the home team. We’re not going to let these guys come in and basically do anything (they want).”

But many of the Michigan fans were new to college hockey and didn’t know how to pass the test presented by the Cornell contingent. So, the Wolverine fans took the Big Red’s cheers.

(Highly recommend reading the above link)

The Big Red enter the NCAA tournament ranked #13 in the PairWise Rankings and #14 by USCHO.  They sport an 18-8-7 record and were 12-4-6 in the ECAC, where they finished in second place in the regular season and third place in the conference tourney.

Cornell averages 2.91 goals per game, which ranked 23rd in the nation, and give up 2.27 goals per game, which is 12th best in the land.  Up front they are led by junior forward Greg Miller (14-16-30) and senior forward Sean Collins (13-11-24).  They are the only two players with more than ten goals on the team.   Junior blue liner Nick D’Agnostino leads the defensemen in scoring with 8-12-20, with six of his goals coming on the power play and five of those goals being game-winners.  Sophomore goalie Andy Iles has played every minute of every game for the Big Red in net and is third in the nation with six shutouts along with a modest .918 save percentage.

The Big Red are not a high scoring offense and like to keep games close.  Of their 20 games play since January, ten (!) have gone to overtime.  Great, so Michigan gets stuck in the late game again (the ONLY top seed to being playing the late game) and might find themselves going to extra innings like they did against Bowling Green.

One area that did surprise me is Cornell’s special teams.  Cornell’s power play has converted 22-of-130 opportunities for a 16.9 percent conversion rate and 40th in the nation.  Still better than Michigan’s 23-of-150, 15.3 percent conversion that ranks 46th in the nation, but not that much better.

But on the penalty kill, where you would think a defensive-minded team would excel, the Big Red have killed off only 78.9 percent of their penalties, which is 48th in the nation.  Michigan has killed 84.5 percent, which is 13th.

Michigan hasn’t played their best the past few games and Red Berenson knows it.  So what’s he doing?  Switching up the lines.  Now??  Now. So, effective this week, Derek DeBlois and Chris Brown will be swapping spots on the third and first lines respectively.

Berenson said in an article that he felt the lines “were getting stale,” especially the top line, and he “thought they lost their work ethic.”

Definitely an interesting time to make a change.  The top line has been extremely important to Michigan’s resurgence following the November slump.  When Chris Brown was suspended for fighting after the Miami game and they inserted I believe Luke Moffatt on the top line for the next game, it just didn’t have the same impact.  I imagine if things aren’t clicking like he wants then Red will switch them back during the game. Something to keep an eye on.

On paper, Michigan has Cornell beat in almost every category offensively and defensively, but I expect the Big Red to try grinding it out and keep the game close and kill some of the flow so the Wolverines skilled forwards can’t get any momentum.  Still, it’s a game U-M should win.

I will be live blogging this weekend’s games from the comfort of my own bedroom.  Was hoping to go to Green Bay, but a pinched nerve earlier this week that I’m getting treatment for is preventing that.  Also, I wouldn’t want to try getting credentials for the NCAA event because I don’t like their blogging policy:

However, the blog may not produce in any form a “real-time” description of the event. Real-time is defined by the NCAA as a continuous play-by-play account or live, extended live/real-time statistics, or detailed description of an event.

This would effectively mean no live blog the way I do it.  No thanks!

I might open the live blog earlier in the evening for the Ferris State vs. Denver game, too, so join in the fun all night long!