This weekend six seniors will skate for the last time at Munn Ice Arena. This class (for the 4 year players) has compiled a record of 58-86-18 in their time at Michigan State and only saw the NCAA tournament once. For a program like Michigan State this is definitely a disappointing span of time and this class will probably not be remembered by fans for their impact on the program. While the team record is below standards there are some amazing young men in this class, that are part of a transition from the Rick Comley era to the Tom Anastos era.
Greg Wolfe is the headliner from this class and will be the player that will be most missed next season. The senior from Canton, MI has tied his career high in points (26) this season and has provided good captain leadership. The Chelios brothers, Dean and Jake, will also be playing their last series at Munn this weekend. While their play never probably matched what people expected, based on their last name, the Chelios' have definitely been a thorn in opponents' sides in their years here. Will Yanakeff has seen his career go stagnant in net, after Jake Hildebrand took over the net last season, but Yanakeff had a great sophomore season and is still the last Spartan goalie to tend net in a NCAA tournament game. Forward Lee Reimer from Landmark, Manitoba has been a steady linemate of Wolfe and is one goal away from tying his career high in goals (9) from his sophomore campaign. Not to be forgotten is Nickolas Gatt who hasn't scored a point in his 51 games played for the Spartans. Gatt transferred to Michigan State after his sophomore season at Alabama-Huntsville, when there was fear the program would be scraped and hasn't been used much this season with more depth on the roster. Gatt also played a role in the future of the program, as his presence helped secure the commitment of Carson Gatt, his brother for next season.
Spartan Hockey All Access- MILES AWAY (via MSUSpartanAthletics)
This isn't a class of All-Americans and guaranteed future pros but they have all represented the University well and will hopefully have a full Munn for their Senior Night Saturday. As far as pro futures I would guess that everyone, save for Gatt, will catch on with a minor league team, whether it be the ECHL or AHL. I believe that Reimer would make a good AHL player and Yanakeff with more ice time and development may find a way to the AHL as well.
Time/TV: 7:05 Friday, 4:00 Saturday on Fox Sports Detroit+
Wisconsin SBnation Site: Bucky's 5th Quarter
|Wisconsin Badgers||Stats Match-Up (National Rank)||Michigan State Spartans|
|3.22 (13)||Goals Per Game||2.12 (55)|
|2.41 (16)||Goals Against Per Game||2.52 (18)|
|17.24% (33)||Power Play Percentage||13.74% (52)|
|86.3% (8)||Penalty Kill Percentage||79.2% (47)|
|Mark Zengerle 9G, 27A 36 pts||Leading Scorer||Greg Wolfe 12G, 14A 26 pts|
|Joel Rumpel 18-4-1 .937 save %||Expected Goaltenders||Jake Hildebrand 8-14-7 .925 save %|
Michigan State at Wisconsin - Men's Hockey Highlights (via bigtennetwork)
Wisconsin is a tale of two teams. There is the Wisconsin that has a 17-2-1 record on home ice, which can be expected for a top 5 team in the country. Then, there are the road struggles for Wisconsin, which is surprising for a team with 9 seniors,as the Badgers are only 4-7-1 away from the Kohl Center. This is one of the few things that a Spartan fan can turn to to feel a sense of optimism this weekend. That's what happens when you are playing a team that, less than a month ago, embarrassed you with a 5-2, 2-0 sweep.
Since these two teams met three weeks ago, very little has changed. The Badgers have played one series, just like the Spartans, sweeping the Penn State Nittany Lions last weekend. Wisconsin is 2nd place in the B1G and has an outside shot of winning the regular season title if they sweep the Spartans and get some help from Michigan playing Minnesota. The Spartans are locked into a first round match-up against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 1st round of the B1G Tournament, with only being the 4 or 5 seed left to be decided.
This weekend presents the last chance for the Spartans to find something that works on offense, that could lead the team on a three game winning streak next weekend to earn an NCAA tournament berth. Last weekend was easily the worst games for goaltender Jake Hildebrand, as he was pulled early in each game and this weekend he needs to get back on track.
Three Keys To Spartan Success
1. Jake Hildebrand- As discussed above Hildebrand is coming off his worst weekend of the season. It not only is a key this weekend for Hildebrand to play well, but should also be a key getting ready for the inaugural B1G Tournament next weekend. Being that there is not much to play for this weekend and that senior Will Yanakeff played well in relief last weekend, you have to imagine Hildebrand will only start on Friday. Since senior day will most likely go to Yanakeff Saturday, Hildebrand may have only one night to get some confidence back.
2. Stay Out Of The Box- The Wisconsin power play was 4-11 the last time these two teams met and Michael Mersch was deadly for the Badgers. Despite being a team that has put up good defensive numbers, the Spartans penalty kill has been an Achilles heel all season. Not giving the Badgers man-up chances this weekend will be crucial to the Spartans success.
3. John Draeger and Jake Chelios- This 1st defensive pair was outstanding last weekend in Saturday's victory over Michigan. They each made plays that led directly to goals by jumping into the play offensively and those type of plays have been missing all year. This pair will also go against the top line featuring Michael Mersch and will need to shut down his line to come out with a good result this weekend.
Momentum has not been there all season for the Spartans. They pull off ties against Minnesota after terrible weekends and then respond with terrible losses after that. So as much as I want to say the comeback win against Michigan will launch the Spartans into a sweep this weekend, I just can't see it. The Badgers did not have an easy weekend last week at Penn State so the road woes are not overrated. This team is just plain different away from the Kohl Center. I think the Badgers win a close game 3-2 Friday night and the Spartans find a way to get points forcing a shootout Saturday. Since it's senior night and I think Will Yanakeff deserves a moment I'll say the Spartans get their 5th shootout win on Saturday.
Nic Kerdiles Between The Legs Goal against Penn State (via mkerdiles17)
Around the B1G
Minnesota needs just 2 points this weekend to clinch the first ever B1G regular season championship. The Gophers will try to earn those two points in a series playing at Michigan. The Ohio State Buckeyes are playing at last place Penn State this weekend. The Buckeyes sit 2 points ahead of the Spartans and need 4 points to wrap up 4th place and the "home advantage" in the 4 vs 5 match-up against MSU in the B1G Tournament.