College Hockey Series of the Week: Wisconsin vs. Michigan
In a battle between two of the country’s most historic and tradition-rich programs, No. 7 Wisconsin (13-7) and No. 8 Michigan (10-6) will meet for a two-game series at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor.
The Badgers have been down in the dumps in recent years but have thrusted themselves back into the national spotlight after mauling Minnesota last weekend, outscoring them 12-2 in the two games.
Tony Granato’s team is fueled by one of the most exciting players in the country in Cole Caufield, and there’s no doubt the 2019 first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens is dynamic.
His 33 points and 17 goals are tops in the nation for those respected categories; he’s also third in the nation in points per game with 1.65. Anytime the puck touches his stick, there could be fireworks.
Aside from Caufield, Wisconsin has a number of other weapons like Linus Weissbach and Edmonton Oilers first-round pick Dylan Holloway. That duo has combined for 49 points with 34 of those points being assists. Holloway averages 1.92 points per game for an offense that knows how to score.
Ty Pelton-Byce is also one of the more underrated forwards in the Big Ten as he has a natural instinct for being around the puck at all times while creating mismatches for the defense.
Tyler Inamoto and Josh Ess are the ringleaders of a Wisconsin backend that has improved drastically over the years. They help create the opportunities for the offense to run its course and will hit you at any given moment.
Wisconsin’s goaltending has also been solid this season, considering the fact that it had been a massive liability when Daniel Lebedeff was there for a few years.
With Lebedeff gone, Cameron Rowe and Robbie Beydoun have been steady and reliable. Beydoun has seen action in 14 games with a 7-6 record, a 2.78 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. Rowe has played in nine games and has a 6-1 record, a 1.50 goals-against average and .948 save percentage.
The Wolverines, like Wisconsin, have a plethora of young talent, and they come into the series fresh out of an athletic-department-wide shutdown due to positive COVID cases.
They return to the ice with eventual first-round pick Kent Johnson, notching 18 points thus far. He is joined alongside San Jose Sharks prospect Thomas Bordeleau with 18 as well.
Michael Pastujov has seven goals for the Wolverines, and Johnson isn’t far behind with six.
Defensively, Nick Blankenburg, potential 2021 No. 1 overall pick Owen Power, and 2019 Flyers first-round pick Cam York have anchored a defense that, like Wisconsin, has taken huge steps forward.
Power is a complete player in almost every category imaginable and will be one of the best players in the Big Ten down the stretch.
It’ll be interesting to see if he decides to come back to Michigan should he be drafted first overall.
Strauss Mann has been one of the best goalies in the Big Ten this season and has stolen a few games for the Wolverines this season.
He has played in 14 games with an 8-6 record, a 2.00 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.
This series will feature the No. 1 scoring offense in Wisconsin, averaging 3.94 goals per game, and the No. 8 scoring offense in Michigan, which averages 3.61 goals per game.
The Wolverines have had a long layoff, as their last game was on Jan. 22 in South Bend against Notre Dame. The Badgers, however, are one of the hottest teams in the land as of late.
Michigan swept the first series in Madison earlier in the season, but the landscape of the conference has changed, and Wisconsin isn’t the same team as before.
Prediction: Wisconsin sweep
Game 1: Wisconsin 4, Michigan 2
Game 2: Wisconsin 5, Michigan 3
Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.