Will fists fly in Marquette again?

Michigan makes their first road trip of the season as they head north to Marquette to face Northern Michigan University.  The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. ET Friday and Saturday nights and I will be at the Berry Events Center providing you live coverage of the event.

The Wildcats are coming off being swept at home by Notre Dame.  NMU always brings their ‘A’ game when Michigan’s in town and being swept at home last weekend provides extra motivation for them to turn the ship around.

NMU started off the season with a surprising sweep of Wisconsin, then split at Nebraska-Omaha before the losses to the Irish.  On a side note, I wish our non-conference schedule started out with the likes of Wisconsin and UNO rather than the yearly Atlantic Hockey opponents, but oh well.  More on this in a bit, too…

This is your typical NMU blue collar team.  No real superstar player, they just work hard and score by committee.  They still have a tendency to get out shot—sometimes very badly—but always manage to take advantage of their few opportunities in those type of games and hang in there.

The Wildcats are led offensively by senior Matt Thurber (1-5-6 in 6gp) and juniors Reed Seckel (2-2-4 in 5gp) and Stephan Vigier (1-3-4 in 6gp).  A pair of underclassmen—sophomore Ryan Daugherty and freshman Cohen Adair—are tied for the team lead with three goals each.

In net, junior Jared Coreau finally takes the reigns full time and is 3-3-0 in six games with a 2.78 goals against average and .907 save percentage.  Those numbers are a bit down from last season.  He faced Michigan twice last year and gave up three goals in a 3-3 tie in Marquette and four goals in a late season loss in Ann Arbor.

For the Wolverines, they look to rebound after Saturday’s disappointing third period collapse against Miami.  The biggest issues going in to this weekend are the play of the freshmen netminders and the defense.

Freshman goalie Steve Racine will get the starting nod Friday night, which shouldn’t come as any surprise. Unlike last weekend when it was predetermined earlier in the week that freshman Jared Rutledge would play Saturday night regardless of how Racine played Friday, this time around Red Berenson will make not such guarantee per Michael Spath at The Wolverine.  If Racine performs well Friday, he’ll start again Saturday.  If not, then Rutledge will get the start. Hopefully Racine doesn’t go all Hunwick on somebody.

Our own Geoff Chiles told me earlier this week, “Racine has clearly separated himself from Rutledge, as far as I’m concerned.”  Berenson praised Racine’s quickness and ability to recover on his show Tuesday night.  Coach also said you got to be able to handle the unexpected and Racine did that against Miami, making the saves he should make and making a lot of saves he shouldn’t have made.

The other area with much room for improvement comes on the blue line.  Thought to be a point of strength before the season, it has become the Wolverines area of weakness.  As previously noted, Racine was counted on to make several big stops Friday night.  Not the type of trend you want to establish early on in the season.

Adding to the defensive woes, Spath also reports that sophomore Brennan Serville will miss this weekend’s games due to a “facial concussion.”  So your pairings for this weekend will be Trouba-Clare, Moffie-Bennett, and Chiasson-Szuma.

And one more note of bad news, The Michigan Daily hints that Jon Merrill will not be back for longer than expected.  Ugh.

What to expect: Two hard fought, physical games.  If you remember last year, Shawn Hunwick lost his cool and clocked Andrew Cherniwchan, and Luke Moffatt got a game DQ on the same incident.  I expect NMU to come out strong Friday night and Michigan is going to have to do what they can to control the game early and take the crowd out of it.  The Wolverines have had a bad habit of starting off games sluggish this season. Can’t keep doing that. The defense needs to tighten up their play and take some of the pressure off their goalie.  And the Wolverines need to play a complete 60 minutes because I guarantee you NMU will.  Michigan’s already had a pair of third period collapses and, even though it’s only November, those are the type of losses that can come back to bite them in the ass later in the season.

The Mining Journal’s Matt Wellens talked to NMU coach Walt Kyle about scheduling the Wolverines in the future.  Kyle is open to the idea, however it must be on “fair terms.”  By that he means a basic home-and-home series where the Wolverines would travel to NMU one year and NMU would return the favor the next year.  He is not open to two-for-ones and payout deals.

“I’m not going to get into scheduling with a team that wants to schedule us twice in their building and once in our building,” Kyle said.

“I’m not going to put ourselves in a position where we are chasing a rabbit two out of every three years. I’ll do 50-50. I’ll do it in a fair world, but I’m not going to put us in those positions.”

As Michigan’s schedule allows for more non-conference games starting next year, this will be one of those issues going forward as they try to fill their schedule.  You know they want to play as many home games as possible to make as much money as possible.  I certainly don’t blame Kyle for his stance, and I hope Michigan does continue to play at least one instate school at home and on the road (not including Michigan State) each year.

JMFJ… in pumpkin form. Outstanding!

Former Wolverine standout Mike Cammalleri is featured in a new video for The College Hockey Experience. Love it. Check it out:

Extras… The NHL Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival are all but dead. The CHLPA took a turn for the bizarre yesterday. Like, seriously. No, really, it’s majorly f’ed up. All that’s missing is for Derek Clarke to remove his hood and reveal that it’s really Vince McMahon. The NCAA announces 2014 regional sites. Cincy? Meh.

  • Squerb

    From Shawn Hunwick’s Twitter:

    Big road trip for the boys at NMU. A few friendly bets with my roommate/nmu alumni Andrew Cherniwchan. Yes the guy I punched in the face last season.

    Classic hockey sportsmanship!

  • http://MichiganHockey.net/ Jason Paul

    I saw that tweet.  Amazing how things come around.