Michigan Hockey NCAA Regional Final Preview
Penn State is all that stands between the Wolverines and a round trip to the Frozen Four.
By AndrewBailey on March 26, 2023 07:00
The Michigan Wolverines advanced to the next round of the Big Ten NCAA Tournament after a dominating 11-1 victory over Colgate. Michigan has the opportunity to advance to its second straight Frozen Four and has a clear, if familiar, path to the national championship.
To say the Big Ten dominated the first round of the NCAA Tournament would be an understatement. All four Big Ten teams (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Minnesota) outscored their opponents by a combined score of 36-4, and a maximum of three could qualify for the Frozen Four.
There is a particularly clear path for Michigan to only face conference foes Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota in pursuit of its first title since 1998. Admittedly, that familiarity could be a double-edged sword, each team being equally familiar with the Wolverines, but with their depth of talent, every game would favor corn and blue, barring the draw for an equally talented Minnesota team.
Michigan must first pass through Penn State. The Wolverines are 3-1 against the Nittany Lions this season, but record dominance doesn’t tell the whole story.
For example, a win required Luke Hughes to reach Super-Saiyan level on the ice and score four goals to bring Michigan back from a three-goal deficit. And in Michigan’s lone loss to Penn State, the Nittany Lions overwhelmed Michigan from the face-off to become the only team this season to shut out the Wolverines.
Penn State is built similarly to the Wolverines and will look to use their speed in the neutral zone to take advantage of Michigan’s aggressive defenders. The key to beating the Nittany Lions for Michigan is simply discipline.
If Michigan can play physically without committing penalties and maintain blue-line integrity among the six defensemen, the Wolverines will progress. But if a defender is caught off guard, he could find himself giving up easy goals to a rejuvenated Penn State offense.
Penn State’s eight-goal outburst against Michigan Tech on Thursday night was only the second time the Nittany Lions had scored more than two goals in a game since Feb. 3. Was this performance a meltdown or an outlier? If Michigan can play discipline against the Nittany Lions, the answer won’t matter.
If the Wolverines can topple their hometown regional team, they will face the winner of Quinnipiac/Ohio State in the Frozen Four. On the other side of the table, the winner of Minnesota/St. Cloud State will face the Boston/Cornell winner on the opposite side of the Frozen Four. (Apologies if all of this is out of date at the time of publication).
Prediction Frozen Four:
Minnesota vs. Boston
Quinnipiac vs. Michigan
MATCH: Michigan vs. Penn State
WHEN: Sunday, March 26, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Allentown, Pennsylvania
HOW TO WATCH: ESPN2, TSN+
HOW TO LISTEN: College Podcast Network