College Hockey Series of the Week: Michigan vs. Minnesota

Story posted December 8, 2020 in CommRadio, Sports by Matthew McLaughlin

In a pivotal top-10 matchup in the Big Ten, the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines will host the No. 4 Minnesota Golden Gophers on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. for the first of a two-game series. However, both teams will be without key contributors who will be joining the United States World Juniors team.

One key component for each team will be goaltending, which has not been the strong suit for Michigan so far in the early phases of the season. Over the last four games, Michigan goaltender Strauss Mann has given up 15 goals, including a nine-goal drubbing from the Penn State Nittany Lions in the Wolverines’ most recent game.

Furthermore, Mann has two games where he’s given up more than two goals, which may be an anomaly, but given the fact he just gave up SIX in his last start, trusting him would be unwise at the moment.

On the other side of the coin, the Golden Gophers have had remarkable goaltending under senior phenom Jack LaFontaine, who has turned into a brick wall, allowing only four goals over Minnesota’s last four games.

However, as previously mentioned, both squads will be without some of their most recognizable names. Michigan will enter this series without five of their leaders: sophomores Johnny Beecher and Cam York, and freshmen Matty Beniers, Thomas Bordeleau and Brendan Brisson, whereas the Gophers visit Ann Arbor without freshman Brock Faber and sophomores Jackson LaCombe and Ryan Johnston.

Bordleau has led Michigan offensively with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) on the year, while Brisson and Beniers have followed his lead with seven and six points, respectively, to form a potent back line that all of a sudden looks severely depleted in depth.

For Minnesota, the losses of Faber, LaCombe and Johnston don’t hurt nearly as much. Faber has one goal for his sole point of the season, LaCombe has two points on a pair of assists, and Johnston has been a great facilitator with four assists for four points, but he doesn’t provide the offensive punch from the blue line like York or Brisson of Michigan.

Despite the oozing talent of Michigan’s back four, the Wolverines are off to a mediocre 3-3 record, while Minnesota’s team-first attitude and stellar goaltending from LaFontaine have catapulted the Gophers to an undefeated 6-0 record, sweeping Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan State in their first three series.

Finally, history is not on Michigan’s side, as the Golden Gophers have absolutely dominated the Wolverines in this rivalry that dates back to 1923. Out of the 291 times these teams have faced off (come for the preview, stay for the corny puns), Minnesota holds a 144-129-18 lead in the battle for the Mariucci/Renfrew Trophy.

If you need even more data, Minnesota has hoisted the trophy nine out of the last 10 years, but that last win for the Wolverines came last season on Feb. 29 in a 2-1 win, so anything can (and likely will) happen in this heated battle between two hockey powerhouses.

Prediction: 1-1 split

Game 1: Minnesota 3, Michigan 2

Game 2: Michigan 4, Minnesota 1


Matthew McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email