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A 'Big Chill' in the air

by Mike G. Morreale /
The hockey programs at No. 11 Michigan and Michigan State are set to go head-to-head on Saturday in 'The Big Chill' -- the much anticipate outdoor hockey extravaganza that is sure to leave more than its share of lasting memories of the Big House at Michigan University.

In case you missed it, correspondent James Murphy crafted an eloquent piece on the big game. Read it here.

The Wolverines were practicing in flurries in their first two days of workouts outdoors this week and no matter the elements or conditions on Saturday, a crowd of over 100,000 is expected. For the record, however, there's a 20 percent chance of snow for the fifth major college outdoor hockey game.

All 109,901 tickets have been sold for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association game. The original Cold War game on the campus of Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in 2001 broke the all-time hockey attendance, 74,544. A world-record attendance of 77,803 last May watched the USA play Germany in the domed Veletins Arena soccer stadium at the World Championships in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

If you're going to the game, you might want to pay special attention to three players who were named 'C Players' to watch in the CCHA by the NHL's Central Scouting Service. A 'C Rating' is designated to a player the Central Scouting is tracking as a potential late-round selection for the 2011 Entry Draft.

Those players include defenseman Kevin Clare and center Jacob Fallon of Michigan and goaltender Will Yanakeff of Michigan State. There's a strong possibility, however, that Yanakeff will be backing up Drew Palmisano in the MSU net on Saturday.

Clare has played just six games and has one assist and four shots. Fallon, whose strengths are his speed and passing ability, has a goal and three points in 12 games for the Wolverines. Fallon's career took a bit of a hit last winter when he was suspended by the USNTDP for a drinking violation. A month and a half after returning from suspension, he was involved in another incident and chose to leave the program for the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League for a fresh start. Despite all that, Fallon has made good for head coach Red Berenson and still expects to be an NHL draft pick in June.

Yanakeff, whose favorite player is former MSU standout and 2010 Vezina Trophy winning NHL goalie Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres, is 0-1-0 with a 3.00 GAA and .886 save percentage this season. In 10 games with the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL, Yanakeff went 5-5-0 with a 3.41 GAA.

More details and a live audio feed of the game, which begins 3 p.m. ET, can be accessed here.
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