Friday, January 10, 2014

Michigan hockey heads to Madison for first two-game series against Badgers since 1981

Fouad Egbaria

The No. 8 Michigan Wolverines (10-4-2) head to Madison tonight to take on the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers (11-6-1) for the first game of a weekend double-header. This weekend marks the beginning of the Big Ten schedule for the Wolverines; if you're still holding onto any CCHA nostalgia, this weekend might be a good time to let it go.

The puck drops at 9 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

After spending time in the top 5, the Wolverines dropped down to No. 8 after losing both games at the Great Lakes Invitational against Western Michigan and Michigan State, two unranked teams. It's a long season and letdowns are bound to happen, but this weekend's series at the Kohl Center will go a long way toward restoring the good feelings Michigan had before the GLI.

On the bright side, Michigan does get Andrew Copp back; he missed the GLI while he represented the United States at the World Junior Championship in Sweden. Copp leads the Wolverines with nine goals this season.

Meanwhile, the Badgers started the season being predicted by most to finish second in the new Big Ten hockey league, ahead of Michigan but behind Minnesota. Unfortunately for Mike Eaves and Co., the season to date hasn't gone as smoothly as expected.

The Badgers kicked off the season with a pair of wins against Northern Michigan but then took a pair of brutal losses in Massachusetts on consecutive nights, losing to BC 9-2 and to BU 7-3.

They then lost three of four games at Miami and Minnesota. However, things have turned up for the Badgers since then. Since the 4-3 loss at Minnesota on Nov. 30, the Badgers have won seven of eight, facing Penn State, Colorado College, Alabama-Huntsville and Alaska-Anchorage. In that span, the Badgers did drop their first home game of the season, a 3-2 loss against Alaska-Anchorage.

Just like on the hardwood, the Badgers are a tough out on the Kohl Center ice, and Michigan will certainly have its hands full. On the injury front, Wisconsin will be without sophomore Nic Kerdiles, who is third on the squad in goals with eight (17 points). Senior F Sean Little is also out. Kerdiles' absence is an unfortunate one, as you'd always like to face a quality opponent when they're at their best.

Senior F Mark Zengerle leads the the team in points (20), but has just two goals to his name. Senior F Michael Mersch leads the squad with 11 goals; senior F Tyler Barnes is second on the team with eight goals.

According to Bucky's 5th Quarter, Joel Rumpel is likely to get the nod in net. Rumpel has started nine games (appeared in 10) and boasts a GAA of 1.93 and a save percentage of .928.

Michigan boasts a 4-1-1 record on the road this season, but this weekend's trip to Wisconsin's capital city will present their toughest test yet.
For more, check out Bucky's 5th Quarter's excellent preview. Also check out this MGoBlue piece on the renewal of the rivalry

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