The fifth-ranked Ferris State Bulldogs will travel to Yost Ice Arena on Wednesday evening to take on the fourth-ranked Michigan Wolverines. in battle of two of the strongest teams in college hockey this season. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Detroit+ for cable subscribers throughout most of Michigan, and televised on Fox Sports College Sports Atlantic nationally.
No team in the country has been hotter than Ferris State over the past two months. The Bulldogs are undefeated in their past 13 games, with 11 wins and two ties over that stretch. Their 13-2-2 overall record gives them the second-best winning percentage in all of college hockey. Michigan, meanwhile, just barely trails the Bulldogs with a 10-2-1 overall record for the fifth-best winning percentage in the country.
Many people have shown skepticism over the Bulldogs' success, due to a perceived weak schedule. But it's worth pointing out that the Bulldogs strength of schedule rating in the RPI, differs by only .0001 from Michigan's. Wins over teams like Lake Superior and Colgate may not look as impressive as Michigan's series against bigger name opponents like New Hampshire and Nebraska-Omaha, but by objective measure, they are.
Adding to the intrigue of this game, is that Ferris State starting goalie CJ Motte will be facing his younger brother Tyler, a freshman at Michigan, for the first time in his career in this game. CJ has been outstanding for the Bulldogs this year, posting a 13-0-2 record with a .925 save percentage and a 2.31 goals against average. Tyler has been one of the key factors in Michigan's turnaround this season, bringing his speed and physical play to the Michigan line-up, while chipping in five goals and two assists offensively.
Depth of scoring has been a huge driving factor in Ferris State's success this year. Nine different Bulldogs have reached the double-digit point plateau so far this season. Defensemen Scott Czarnowczan has been one of the best defensemen in college hockey this year. He and fellow defenseman Jason Binkley both rank in the top ten nationally in scoring among defensemen with 14 points each on the season.
The Wolverines get very little scoring from the blue line, but have a very dangerous group of forwards to contend with. Freshman JT Compher has exploded in recent weeks, and now leads the Wolverines with 14 points in 13 games. Sophomore alternate captain Andrew Copp is second on the Wolverines in scoring with a team-best eight goals and five assists through 13 games.
As far as keys for tonight's game, both teams are very fast starters. Ferris State has outscored opponents 23-6 in the first frame this year for a +17 goal differential, while they're just +8 in goal differential for the remaining two periods and overtime. Michigan has outscored opponents 13-3 in first periods for a +10 differential, while they're even in second periods, and +3 in third periods. Helping the Wolverines record is that they also have a 3-0-1 record in overtime games this year.
Holding leads in the third period has also been a concern for the Wolverines of late. In their series against Ohio State, they gave up third period leads on both nights, before coming back to win on late goals. A lack of depth on the blue line really handcuffs the Wolverines in that regard.
Being a non-conference game, there's also big implications for the Pairwise computer rankings. Both teams have already put themselves in a steady enough position that tonight's game shouldn't have too much impact on their NCAA tournament hopes. Both teams are likely going to make it barring a big collapse in the second half. But a win tonight could help boost the resume of each team's respective conference and provide some help to some bubble teams looking to sneak into the tournament with an at-large bid.