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Frozen Four preview: Defense bolsters ‘underdog’ Michigan

It’s unusual for any team of Wolverines to head into a Frozen Four as underdogs, but this Michigan squad understands that role very well, even though the school is making its 24th appearance in the national semifinals, its 11th under coach Red Berenson and its second since 2008.

In 2010, the Wolverines finished in seventh place in the CCHA and needed the autobid that came with the league playoff title just to make the NCAA tourney. Without the play of goaltender Shawn Hunwick — who had started just six career games before the Wolverines played for the Mason Cup — Michigan would have watched last year’s tournament from Ann Arbor.

At the start of the 2010-11 season, Hunwick had earned the right to rotate in net with Bryan Hogan, whose late-season injury in 2009-10 had given Hunwick (2.26 goals-against average, .922 save percentage) his initial opportunity.

For the first half of the season, the team played inconsistent hockey in front of the goalie rotation. When Hunwick became the full-time starter in December — again because of an injury to Hogan, this time in warm-ups before the Big Chill outdoor game — the Wolverines became contenders, lifting themselves to the CCHA regular-season championship in the last game of the year.

“Shawn Hunwick … he wasn’t even supposed to be our goalie,” said Berenson. “He’s found a way to be our go-to guy and he’s been a confidence builder for our team. And, certainly, every team at this time of year needs a good goalie, and we’ve got a good goalie in Shawn Hunwick.”

 Frozen Four preview: Defense bolsters underdog Michigan This year’s Michigan team is the sum of a whole bunch of things that probably shouldn’t add up to a Frozen Four appearance, at least on paper. “I think this team has been an above-average team led by its seniors, but we haven’t had the prolific scorers that some our teams of the past [had],” said Berenson. “I think our best team had seven 20-goal scorers. We don’t have one 20-goal scorer on this team, so it’s a different kind of team.”

Led by seniors Carl Hagelin (18-30–48) and Louie Caporusso (11-19–30), Michigan has five players who have scored more than 10 goals, and one of them, Scooter Vaughan (13-10–23) is a senior defenseman who’s been moved to forward.

Berenson called Hagelin and Caporusso “the bread and butter” of this year’s Wolverines. “Certainly, we’ve been up and down at times depending on how they’ve played or how they’ve scored,” he said.

With scoring down, Michigan’s defense this season has at times been its saving grace, allowing 2.26 goals per game on average.

“We used to be known for our offense, and we’re still trying to be that team, but we don’t have quite the depth or the offensive skill that we used to have, but we’re in the games,” said Berenson. “We’re in most of the games we’ve played and we’ve had to battle to find ways to win games.”

Facing North Dakota, the only No. 1 seed remaining in the Frozen Four, with an improbable squad makes Michigan “like every other team,” said Berenson.

“All you can do is prepare for it. Do we have a chance? Everybody has a chance. We’re probably the overwhelming underdog in this game, but we still have a chance.”


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  • ItsBusinessTime

    Surviving with 2 solid lines will work for half the game, maybe 2 periods. After that, the ice will tilt and it’ll be ‘game over.’ Sioux 5-3.

    • Paula Weston

      Well, that didn’t take long! Ha!

    • CollegeHockeyIsFun

      Just remember this is why the game gets played! You might not want to be too arrogant with your predictions because their is business yet to be done by the Sioux where anything can happen.

      • ItsBusinessTime

        I wasn’t being arrogant. I was stating my prediction. If I’d have said it the other way around would you have felt better?

      • Guest

        There are a couple of North Dakota fans on here that have set this up as a “no-lose” situation for their team. The formula? Claim superiority in individual matchups to opponent, throw out a couple numbers that support your case, inflate the general consensus that North Dakota is the slight favorite to win it all into overwhelming favorite, and it no longer matters what the final score is.

        If they win, we get to hear howls of WCHA superiority. Even if they lose, they can claim they are “the better team still” and would win “x out of y” games. As a word of warning, if Michigan wins (yes, this could easily happen because the talent level of the two teams isn’t much different, the skill set is), don’t expect to be getting a lot of kudos from these specific couple of fans.

        • DG

          Thank you captain obvious

        • Bringing home #8

          Sounds like comments made by a Michigan fan post Championship in ’97!

          • FightingSioux4ever

            I was just thinking that sounded eerily like Brenden Morrison after they lost the semi-final to BU. Weird.

    • Mike

      I got news for you there isn’t that much of a drop off from Michigan’s third line and UND’s third line. There certainly isn’t any drop off at the 4th line of the two teams.

      • hockeyfan2145

        you are not serious are you? haha.

        • Mike

          Yes I am serious. Do you even know who plays on these lines? What is your theory for thinking UND has such an advantage. I know one thing Mario Lamoureux, Carter Rowney, and Derek Rodwell certainly don’t scare anyone and really shouldn’t impress anyone either! Nelson and Davidson are solid hockey players but they don’t wow in comparison with Michigan’s 3rd line.

          • college hockey fan

            jumping in here…great posts at the top by suture 1 and Mich fan…..we are in the frozen four and ANYONE can win any game, regardless of lines or matchups. I am very excited about the Mich/ND game, as I think it will be a classic matchup that probably (although sometimes one team or the other just doesn’t have it and gets blown out in these situations for whatever reason) won’t be decided until the very end! Go Sioux, this is gonna be a great one!

          • Jdorf40

            There are a few things that should be evaluated before getting into a swinging competition of male parts. First…you have to keep in mind that for a significant portion of the season, both Kristo and Gregoire were out with injuries. So there were many games that the lineups were juggled around trying to find a good fit that would compliment who was in the lineup. I’m not trying to make excuses because I understand that every team deals with injuries…but Gregoire and Kristo are 2 pretty prolific parts of this team. Chay Genoway missed significant time as well. The Sioux are finally at full strength and last weekend was the first time all season that I can remember them having a full lineup active. I hope that the momentum will carry over as I attribute a lot of our successes last week to having everyone dressed. One other stat that I find more relevant (aside from W’s and L’s of course) than any other is +/-. Carl Hagelin (who I think is an absolute stud btw) leads Michigan with a +21 rating. There are 9 players on the Sioux roster that meet or exceed that number. That is a glaring statistic.
            And finally, let’s look at the success of the teams at home compared to away from their home barn. The Sioux were 15-4-1 at home, 12-4-2 on the road and 5-0 at neutral sites. Michigan was 16-2-1 at home, 7-6-3 on the road and are 5-2 at neutral sites. This would alarm me if I was a Wolverines fan. This is essentially going to be a home game for the Sioux. Not just because they’re familiar with the Xcel Center as they play there every year (also having just won 2 big games there less than 3 weeks ago). But because of the 18,000 or so fans that will be on hand. Even if Michigan gets a record turnout, they’ll be dwarfed in numbers by Sioux fans. I guarantee it. It’d be similar to the Sioux having to go out and play UM at the Joe. Only Sioux fans fill up the Xcel for the Final 5 tourney, let alone the Frozen Four.
            By no means do these points guarantee a victory to either team. But if you look at the depth of the 2 teams, how they’ve faired in what this environment will be, and the statistical advantages in nearly every category for the Sioux…if Michigan does win, they’ll definitely have to earn it. It should be a great time. As a Sioux fan, I like our chances. I think the only team that can beat us is us.

          • jackson

            yes Carl Hagen is a stud… can’t wait to see him with the Rangers… and who ever wins this game wins the championship.. so this game imo is the championship.

          • Unbiased spectator

            youve obviously never watched mario lamoreux

          • Mike

            I’ve watched plenty of UND games. I’ve watched Mario Lamoureux plenty. I actually once watched a game where he lost every single face off he took. That was impressive. Have not seen that many times.

            Saying Michigan will have to earn the victory is obvious. If UND wins they will have to earn it as well.

            Saying the only team that can beat us is us. I guess you can say that about any team. If you don’t come out and play well and give no effort sure. But usually it does have something to do with the opponent.

          • FightingSioux4ever

            How many other tams have their 4th line center playing regularly on the PP second unit? There is a huge gap. The Sioux roll 4 lines all game long. Denver didn’t play their 4th until the second OT in the WCHA championship, and that’s cuz the top 3 were gassed. Even a guy like Joe Gleason, a converted defensemen, saw plenty of action down the stretch. Rowney was starting to produce when he got hurt, Davidson is playing his best hockey ever, and he was a walk-on 4 years ago. Who does Michigan have on their 3rd and 4th?

      • #1 Ranked Sioux

        The advantage for UND Fighting Sioux that I see is their fourth line will give the first three lines more time off the ice for rest. When they hit the ice again they will be able to keep their feet moving all 60mins played. That is where I think the Sioux might have the depth advantage.

        I take nothing away from Michigan’s team. They are well experienced and have great players. I’m unsure if they’ve had that comparable competition like that inside the CCHA for an entire season. I can say, the Sioux have when you look at their schedule and the difficulty of the WCHA schedule.

        It will be a much closer game than people expect. The balance still tips in UND’s favor with a 6-4 outcome, IMHO.

        • Hockey God

          One thing that will help equalize UND’s depth is TV timeouts, they give everyone a little extra break.

      • ItsBusinessTime

        Well then most of what has been written and what I’ve witnessed myself has been a mirage. I live in Ann Arbor and I have watched the Wolverines about a dozen times this year. If you think their depth is equal to the depth of the Sioux, then there’s some oceanside property in Fargo that I’d like to sell you.

        I was by no means implying that the Sioux were guaranteed a victory, as we’ve already seen what can happen to ‘the better team’ in the tournament, but if it’s business as usual, the depth of the Sioux will wear down UM. I think special teams are the biggest hope for the Wolverines. If they get their PP working early, that will give them their best chance. But if they get short handed early, that’s a recipe for disaster. Especially in the Xcel Center, which is essentially going to be a home game for the Sioux.

    • jackson

      better get those goal totals up.. both teams can score a sht tone of goals… prob be like the regional game in grand forks a couple years back.. think that score was 8-5 und… i see this game about the same.. lots of goals, but think the sioux will win, just cuz of there depth.

      • ItsBusinessTime

        Try telling Mike that!! LOL

      • ItsBusinessTime

        I hope the Sioux don’t allow 5 goals. We don’t want to get into a shootout. Let’s just score our 4 and keep them under 3. That will make me a happy camper. Let the Mich Golden Light flow like wine.

  • Suture1

    Good luck Michigan. I think it will be a great game and I am glad the Sioux are playing against y’all. I do think the Sioux will prevail but I think it will be much, much closer than anyone might think (or at least some of my Sioux brethren think). I think this will be a classic game between possibly the two most storied hockey programs in the country (at least going by championships won). College hockey needs big-school exposure and I am glad an excellent school like Michigan is here to bring more national recognition. I think you will find virtually all of the North Dakota fans (I realize there are some jokers on this site….but there are jokers everywhere right) are very respectful of the Michigan team and their fans…..I think you will be pleasantly surprised in this regard. Just wanted to stop by and wish you and your team good luck in the FF. I am so excited as I am sure many of you are. I think the game will be fantastic….see y’all in St. Paul…:)

    • Mich Fan

      Good luck to your team as well. You better load up the suite, I have a feeling there will be more than one Sioux fan stopping by for a cold one. I am bitting at the bit for the game to start. Have fun

  • Ted

    I haven’t seen Michigan more than a couple times this season; but I’ve seen North Dakota at least 8. North Dakota has the best 4th line I have ever seen in college hockey. Kristos would be a 1st line star on almost any team, Dickenson has exploded, since Kristo return and Nelson is nifty freshman who is really getting a chance to excel. North Dakota has rolled four lines all season with no concern about matchups. I guarantee you right now this game will be over after two periods if Michigan tries to roll four lines with ND.

    • Sioux for the Win!

      Davidson has exploded yes….. Michigan is quick and that’s the one thing that scares me as a Sioux fan. When teams try to bang with us we outlast them because of our depth, RPI for example. Be aware this will be a 3-2 game for the Sioux. it’s going to be our 3rd and 4th line that make the difference in this one. Fortunately we are faster than in past years, and we don’t have Joe Finley holding down our blue line! :) SIOUX YEAH YEAH

      • Jdorf40

        LOL at the Finley comment. That guy used to drive me nuts!!

      • Jonathanlvoigt

        It doesn’t concern me that much, because we have a solid defensive core with some quick defensmen (Genoway, Marto). What normally happens with quick teams against us is that they get frustrated and tired by trying to push the pace against a very deep team, and their top 2 lines won’t be able to produce in the 3rd period.

    • Billymbrew

      When you say Dickenson do you mean Brent Davidson or Taylor Dickin?

  • cgreeny

    Regardless of the stat sheet, this is the Frozen Four. Every team in it deserves praise and credit for getting to this point.I am hoping for the Sioux to pull off the victory but they are sure not looking past a tough Michigan team. One game at a time.

  • ItsBusinessTime

    I know right! I had a feeling people would take it the wrong way! HA HA Let the real game begin already!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NDQ4LPCQPS4ROQLVQ5VCREYJVY Geoff

    Essentially a home game for the Sioux? You do realize that St. Paul is about equidistant from Michigan as it it for North Dakota, right?

    As a Michigan Alum and passionate hockey fan, I agree that this will be a tough game to win. Yes, North Dakota can score with the best of them, but we’ve shut down some offensive-minded teams recently. Also, the goaltending situation has not been discussed. Yes, Hunwick may be a smaller guy, but he didn’t win CCHA Goaltender of the Year for nothing. I never thought I’d say it, but if he brings home the ultimate hardware, I think you may have to include him with the likes of Shields, Turco, and Blackburn. How has ND’s goaltending been this year?

    • DG

      UND’s Dell has the best GAA in the nation at 1.81. and a save % of .924. They’ve had increasingly strong goaltending as the seasons progressed

    • WhiskeyJet

      Minneapolis is a little closer to home psychologically if not physically because we play there so regularly. Plus, Sioux hockey basically has no competition for fans. You may have also notice that we froth at the mouth a little. I wouldn’t call it a home game, but it won’t be a very neutral site either.

    • jackson

      r goaltending was good for the most part.. if u leave out the maine games and the first UNO game.

    • Jonathanlvoigt

      Wow, massive map fail. Ann Arbor is about 11 hours from St. Paul, and Grand Forks is only about 5.5. Even if you are coming from somewhere in Western Michigan, like Kalamazoo or Battle Creek its almost 10 hours. Not even close dude.

    • Bringing home #8

      The largest population of UND grads outside of North Dakota is Minneapolis. That is why you see so many Sioux fans in Minnie and that is also why this will feel more like a home game for the Sioux. Not because it is closer to GF than Ann Arbor is.

    • Jason

      equadistance…true. I think they are referring to how well sioux fans travel. Better than any program in the country IMO. For the WCHA final five the Xcel was half sioux fans and then there was everybody else.

      As far as goaltending I would consider it a coin toss. Both goalies have similar SV% but the Dell gets the edge in the other 2 categories (Hunwick .697 win%, 2.26 GAA, .922 SV%) (Dell .816 win%, 1.81 GAA, 9.24 SV%).

      • FightingSioux4ever

        The only thing that out-numbered Sioux fans during the play-in games was empty seats!

    • FightingSioux4ever

      Best in the country, that’s all.

    • Jared J Seibel

      No way, Grand Forks is only a 4 hour drive, while MI is over a 10 our drive.

    • ItsBusinessTime

      I hope you never took a geography course at the U of M. If you did, you should tell them you want your money back. I work in Ann Arbor but I’m originally from the Grand Forks area. The travel time from AA to MSP is almost 3 times the distance as GF to MSP. Even us hillbilly folks from da upper side know dat, and we don’t even need a map to know so. Oooh yah, you got ripped off eh?

  • WhiskeyJet

    Go Sioux, its gonna be a tough game. Anyone remember 1998, when we had a defending national champion squad that could score 5 in one period on a regular basis? Yeah we lost to an upstart Michigan squad so there is no taking anyone lightly. Single elimination, and hockey rewards teams with more heart than talent all the time so the Sioux need to bring both.

    • Jason

      Good comment.

    • MichelinMan2772

      Very well stated my friend. GO BLUE! and best of luck to North Dakota. It should be a hell of a game.

  • HUGEHOCKEYFAN

    I think it’s going to be a GREAT game. Both teams have strengths. I hope both show up at full speed and give us fans our money’s worth. As a Sioux fan I certainly hope we come out on top, but we all know a few fluke bounces can change anything for either team. I just hope that a fluke doesn’t ruin it for either team and that in the end, the team that worked the hardest and smartest for the entire 60 minutes wins. I also hope the refs don’t decide to be a part of the game like they so often do. This is tourney time and they need to let the players decide the tempo and who wins. Hockey isn’t like basketball. Checking is allowed!!! So, let us fans watch hockey the way it’s meant to be played. Fast and hard!!!

  • Dave Berger

    A few things:

    @Mike: I’d love to know the date of the game in question (Lamoureux faceoffs). Mario’s edge is that he plays every shift, every game like he hasn’t made the team yet.

    The note about TV timeouts is well-taken. The other issue in regards to how much ice time the 4th lines need to play is the flow of the game. A game with relatively few whistles favors North Dakota, in my opinion.

    I don’t see either team scoring more than four goals. I’ve got this one as 3-2 either way (perhaps 4-2 with an empty netter). Most of the little edges seem to favor North Dakota (depth, home ice/home crowd advantage), although I won’t count out a Red Berenson team, as in-game adjustments are as great an equalizer as goaltending.

    Here’s to hockey!

    Dave Berger
    SiouxSports.com

    • MichelinMan2772

      Good post Dave. It’s too bad that this game is not for the National Championship. Two storied programs, two classy fan bases. I can’t wait till Thursday. Good luck to North Dakota, and best of wishes to my Big Blue! May the best team win.

      • Dave Berger

        Thanks, and good luck to your squad as well! Will you be at the X for the games?

        Here’s to hockey!

        Dave Berger
        SiouxSports.com

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KBVOP7JEIJTGTBGPEMTI67KVLU J

    this mike guy doesnt understand that any one of the Nodaks lines can match with any opponent. Mario doesnt score a ton of goals but hes solid defensively…dickin is explosive as well as Rodwell. Nelson has tremendous potential and well kristo is back and hes even better than before. Davidson is a beastly senior that has helped carry this team. carter rowney wont be playing so idk why hes in discussion oh and dont forget about two of the top lines in hockey. you claim you’ve seen this team play yet you dont give credit where credit is deserved. gregoire is the hottest goal scorer in the country over the past month and hextall is coming to form after missing games this year and a lot last year. ive seen michigan……good team fast, young…inexperienced hello DENVER yeah sioux took care of them. and im neither arrogant or ignorant im a sioux fan with pride…its actually sad to watch a michigan game and see that nobody wants to watch them play hellooo ghost town!!
    this isnt football and it aiiiinnntttt the 90′s or the 50′s or whenver michigan won most of its titles good luck reading this well horribley written comment good luck Mich in losing miserabley i will be here on thursday SIOUX YEAH YEAH!!!!

  • JustHavingFunWithYou

    I think we should just give the Sioux the trophy because lets me honest they already know what the future holds and the outcomes!!! Enjoy the count down time to playing the game.

  • undloses

    Sioux fans are ridiculously overconfident. Thanks for jinxing the team people. Michigan runs away with this game, hands down! Michigan killed colorado college with shots on goal. Sioux barely beat cc in final five. I d like to see an all wcha final but not going to happen. I just hope the sioux dont get blown out.

    • Brandtson42

      Michigan barely made it out of the first round!!!! Without the fluke goal they would be enjoying it from the comfort of their trailer park homes!! The sioux have dominated their first two opponents in which one of them happens to be the number 5 team in the country. At what point do you think Michigan is going to win hands down?? Michigan is a great program and many championships to prove it and I see them giving the sioux a good game but that is all. Love your name by the way did you come up with that all by yourself??!!

      • more championships than you

        Trailer park homes? The University of Michigan is in southern Michigan, and there is absolute nothing in North Dakota. You guys have less than Canada so stay in North Dakota and don’t post on the internet until you get a middle school education.

        • Brandtson42

          Hey more championships than you. How come you didn’t respond to the rest of the post? But of course you took the humor out of my post and went with that. It seems you might lack the education to respond to the real “meat” of the post. And lets face it, without the fifties Michigan has won 3 titles in over 50 years!! Lets see here….. seven national titles for UND. And when Michigan gets to the Big Ten conference here in a couple of years good luck at ever winning the conference with the likes of Minnesota and Wisconsin in there!!

    • ItsBusinessTime

      I’m a Sioux fan and I hear what you’re saying. I’m nervous as all heck, but I know we have the talent to do it. And I think we’re the best team. Obviously that doesn’t mean it’ll happen…but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

  • Anonymous

    Michigan needs to capitalize early or they are in for a rough night… just remember we came out flat in the 2nd period against denver in the Final Five and in the 1st of the Regional championship and STILL outlasted and scored on Brittain an amazing freshman goalie. Good luck to Michigan… but I see a WCHA championship happening.

    • Paula Weston

      Excellent point about Michigan capitalizing early. While anything can happen in a one-and-done scenario, capitalizing early would certainly help the Wolverines’ chances. If they keep it close until late, that could as well. UM certainly is the underdog in this one. Good luck to your Sioux!

  • fluidguy

    If I write an article about orphans and Christmas will UND fans find a way to make that about themselves too?

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