Matchup: 1-seed Michigan (26-11-3) vs. No. 1 Quinnipiac (32-4-3), NCAA tournament national semifinal.
Faceoff: 8:30 p.m. Thursday; Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida.
At stake: The winner faces Thursday’s winner between Boston U. and Minnesota for the national championship at 8 p.m. Saturday in Tampa.
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Michigan hockey goes for its first national title game berth since 2011 tonight when the Wolverines take on Quinnipiac at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2 from Tampa, Florida. It’s a rematch of last year’s regional final, when the Wolverines peppered Bobcats goalie Yaniv Perets with shots en route to a 7-4 win (though Quinnipiac made a late rally). U-M is hoping for a better result than the ensuing national semifinal; the heavily favored Wolverines fell in overtime to Denver, which went on to win the national title. Tonight’s matchup between the Bobcats and Wolverines is a matchup of the nation’s top defense — Quinnipiac allowed just 1.54 goals per game — and the top offense — Michigan averaged 4.22 goals per game, a number boosted by the Wolverines’ 11 goals in their NCAA opener two weeks ago. The winner will face either Boston U. or Minnesota, who’ll pay in Thursday’s early semifinal at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.
The Wolverine to know: F Mackie Samoskevich
Freshman Adam Fantilli will lead off the scouting packages, as the Hobey Baker Award finalist led the nation with 1.83 points per game, but Samoskevich is also key to the Wolverines’ offense. The sophomore was No. 2 among Wolverines with 20 goals, including the winning score in last month’s regional final, 52 seconds into overtime off a big slapshot. Samoskevich, the first-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2021 (at No. 24 overall) also assisted on the Wolverines’ tying goal against Penn State, keeping their championship hopes alive with a little over eight minutes to go. His family might be a bit conflicted about this matchup, as well: Twin sister Maddy played hockey for Quinnipiac as did older sister Melissa — who’s now the director of player operations for the Quinnipiac women (after serving as a Penn tate women’s assistant).
The Bobcat to know: G Yaniv Perets
Another of the 10 Hobey Baker finalists, as well as a top-three contender for the Mike Richter Award (as best college goalie), the sophomore has actually struggled a bit this season, compared to last season. Playing behind a defense-first scheme at Quinnipiac, Perets stopped 93.9% of the shots he faces last season, with a 1.17 goals-against average. But it all ended in a nightmare: Four goals allowed on 23 shots over 40 minutes in the regional final against Michigan. This season, Perets — who went undrafted and will be able to sign where he wants after he’s done with the Bobcats — allowed “merely” 1.46 goals a game while stopping 93.2% of the shots against. Perets isn’t flawless— he gave up five goals in mid-October to North Dakota, then four goals a week later against Maine. But he also hasn’t given up even three goals in a game since Jan. 28.
Ryan Ford’s pick
After opening the NCAA tournament with 11 goals, the Wolverines managed just two in the regional final. A trend? Or just a hot goalie at the wrong time? With nearly two weeks to prepare for Quinnipiac’s defensive system, the odds are good that the Wolverines won’t wait 52 minutes to score again in this one. The pick: Michigan 4, Quinnipiac 3.
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Ryan Ford’s pick
These two teams are much closer than the season series — won by U-M, 3-1 — suggests, especially considering PSU outscored the Wolverines, 6-4, in their two-game series in Happy Valley back in November. Still, the Wolverines have too much offense to shut down, even if the Nittany Lions control the pace with a plethora of shots against goalie Erik Portillo. The pick: U-M 5, Penn State 3.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan hockey loses to Quinnipiac, 5-2, in 2023 Frozen Four