Two titans will collide in Ann Arbor on Saturday, and it wont be at the Big House.
Top-ranked Michigan (6-0-2) and sixth-ranked MSU (4-1-1) will square off at Yost Ice Arena in the first of four meetings of the teams this season.
The Michigan game is always important, MSU senior center Andrew Bogle said. Its great to have an in-state rivalry with two teams that are consistently in the top 10. We have to play a hard game and hope it turns out for us.
The game will mark the 228th meeting between the teams. U-M holds a 118-101-8 advantage overall in the series and a 62-41-1 mark at Yost. MSU head coach Ron Mason is 51-37-6 against U-M in his 22-year career.
The Wolverines won last years four- game series 2-1-1. MSU won both games played at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit while U-M triumphed at Yost and Munn Ice Arena.
Following losses by Wisconsin and Boston College last weekend, the Wolverines sit on top of the hockey polls for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
The intrastate rivals were both tabbed as CCHA favorites before the season started and have not given any indication of falling from their perch.
The leagues coaches overwhelmingly chose U-M (11 first place votes to one for MSU), while the leagues media members narrowly selected MSU to win the conference (467 to 460 points).
Both teams come into the game on rolls. The Spartans have won three straight games behind a scorching power play unit and rock-solid goaltending by sophomore Ryan Miller.
U-M has won six straight games, completing sweeps of Miami and Bowling Green in its only two CCHA series to date. They are one of only five undefeated teams left in the polls.
The Spartans have scored eight power play goals in the past three games and have received scoring contributions from unexpected sources.
Miller earned CCHA Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in South Bend, Ind. last weekend. He earned two wins in net, while only surrendering three goals on 68 shots. He stopped a career-high 40 Irish shots last Saturday.
Miller will face the Wolverines carrying a 1.83 goals against average and .935 saves percentage.
U-M features a balanced offensive attack and a stingy defense. Josh Langfeld leads the Wolverines with seven goals while Andy Hilbert leads the team in points with 16 (four goals and 12 assists).
Wolverine goaltender Josh Blackburn left a 6-2 win over Miami last weekend after a collision smashed him into the crossbar. He is questionable for the game Saturday.
Senior right winger Rustyn Dolyny said the team is getting excited for the weekends showdown.
We have to go in there and try to derail them, Dolyny said. Were looking for a solid effort and to stay focused. We cant think about them being the top-ranked team in the nation.
The injury-plagued Spartans will welcome back some recovering veterans for their most important game of the young season.
Bogle is expected to play for the first time since sustaining a shoulder injury in the Johnson Nissan Classic last month. Sophomore defenseman Brad Fast is also expected to play after missing the last two periods of a game against Notre Dame last weekend.
Junior center Joe Goodenow, on the other hand, is listed as questionable for Saturday, still hurting from a shoulder injury suffered last month.
Dolyny said Bogle, Fast and Goodenow have been skating and taking hits in practice this week.
The game is sold out and will feature the second annual Maize Out, where all Wolverine fans are supposed to wear maize shirts to the rink.
Its definitely one of the toughest places to play in the league, Dolyny said. Its exciting as a visiting player to be somewhere where the crowds into it.