Maine’s numbers are impressive but they might not mean much in the NCAA tournament.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Almost all the numbers are in Maine’s favor. The Black Bears are the higher seed. They have never lost to Michigan in the NCAA tournament, and just one of the team’s nine losses this season has come on a Saturday.

Unfortunately, Maine’s numbers don’t mean much at Yost Ice Arena. The Bears are taking own on Michigan, and as the host, received the No. 3 seed in their own regional in the first round.

“There is a lot of history in this rink,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “We are going to have our hands full for sure, but we’re ready to go.”

The ice for Friday’s practice sessions was a bit softer than normal, but that was due to the resurfacing done over the past week to include new logos on the ice. By today’s games, the ice surface is expected to be back to normal, and that means fast.

“It was a bit slow out there today to tell you the truth,” said Maine senior Chris Heisten, “but we got a good workout in there and we should be OK to go tomorrow. We hear that the fans are right on top of you, like they are back home, and we like that.”

The Wolverines are an explosive offensive team with three quality forward lines that will test Maine’s defensive mettle.

Leading the Michigan charge this weekend will be freshman sensation Jeff Tambellini. This season, Tambellini scored a team-high 26 goals and collected 17 assists for 43 points. John Shouneyia led the team in assists with 28 and was second in scoring with 35 points. Senior Jed Ortmeyer took MVP honors at the CCHA tournament last weekend and has 32 points on the season. Ortmeyer is one of a few Wolverines who remembers the last time the two teams met in 2000.

“That game seems like ages ago,” said Ortmeyer. “It goes to show us how much playing a full game means. We had a lead later on in that game and ended up losing 5-2.”

Heisten also remembers that game well. It was Heisten who scored the game-winner on his birthday.

This edition of the Wolverines equals its predecessor in speed and skill, and in the net is a freshman with whom a few Black Bears are also familiar in Al Montoya, who played at the U.S. Development Program with Jimmy Howard and Greg Moore. Montoya was the goalie of record in all 40 of Michigan’s games this season, and finished with a mark of 28-9-3.

The biggest question mark for Michigan is on the blue line. Its reaction to Maine’s speedy forwards will go a long way to proving that they can again compete for a spot in the Frozen Four.

“We are going to have to play our best defensive game of the year to beat them,” said Ortmeyer. “We know how fast they are.”

Maine might find that if it looks into a mirror, a team wearing yellow and blue may well be staring back. The similarity between Maine and Michigan is striking. Maine’s strengths are at the forward position and in the net, and the biggest weapon both have is speed. The downfall for each team is on the blue line, although the health of Maine’s blue line is much better than it appeared it might be after last week.

“They have a lot of speed up front,” said Whitehead. “We have a league where a lot of offenses are like that, so we are hopefully used to it. We know that Michigan can get on you at this building.”

In goal, both Howard and Frank Doyle were sharp in practice, and neither has been told who will start today.

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