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Games 298-299: MSU Hockey vs. Michigan Preview

Spartans play home-and-home with arch-rival Michigan this weekend

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend the Spartan hockey team will play it's last road game of the season, which couldn't come fast enough for this team. The Spartans are 1-9-3 in road games with their only win coming at last place Penn State University. These last two teams met in January where the Wolverines swept the Spartans 3-2, 5-2. After the home loss to the Wolverines on that Saturday night Tom Anastos was the most tense I have heard in his three years as coach. Anastos pointed to a lack of effort and maturity in the roster and has been juggling lines ever since.

The Spartans since that Michigan series have won once, lost three and tied four times (2 shootout wins, 2 shootout losses). The Spartans have failed to score three goals in a game since a series with Penn State that directly proceeded the earlier series with Michigan. The Wolverines since the last series have a record of 4-4-2 (1 shootout win, 1 shootout loss) including a streak of four straight losses in there. The Wolverines started the season as one of the stingiest defenses in the country, but have seen freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort struggle as of late surrendering over 4 goals to Penn State twice and over 4 to Minnesota twice. The Spartans are coming off an exhibition loss to the US NTDP 4-3 (OT) while the Wolverines are coming off a tie and win against Ohio State.

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Michigan State Spartan Hockey Skills Competition (via MSUSpartanAthletics)

#12 Michigan Wolverines 16-10-4 (8-6-2 in B1G)

Time/TV: 7:10 P.M. Friday Comcast Ch. 900, 7:05 P.M. Saturday Fox Sports Detroit

Webstream: BTN2GO

Michigan Wolverines Stats Match-Up (National Rank) Michigan State Spartans
2.93 (25) Goals Scored/Game 2.10 (54)
2.57 (19) Goals Against/Game 2.35 (12)
19.8% (16) Power Play Percentage 12.6% (55)
82.4% (30) Penalty Kill Percentage 79.3% (48)
JT Compher 11G, 17A 28 pts. Leading Scorer Greg Wolfe 11G, 12A 23 pts
Zach Nagelvoort 10-7-3 .927 save % Expected Goaltenders Jake Hildebrand 8-13-7 .931 save %

The Wolverines come into this weekend as one of the last at large bids in the NCAA tournament and 3rd in the B1G, 4 points back of Wisconsin. Nagelvoort was a freshman surprise this season and has been coming back to the pack a little bit lately. Steve Racine has not been able to run away with these chances to take over the Wolverine net, so I would expect to see Nagelvoort both nights. The Spartans have the chance with a sweep and a Minnesota sweep over Ohio State to climb into 4th place as they sit 3 points behind the Buckeyes.

The Spartans are 1-2 versus the Wolverines this season. They played possibly their best full game of the season in a 3-0 consolation game victory over Michigan at the GLI tournament. In the series sweep against the Wolverines in January the Spartans played a good Thursday game and awful effort at home on Friday.

3 Keys To Spartan Successs

  1. Discipline- The Spartans have had one of the nation's worst penalty kills in the nation all season and need to limit Michigan's power play opportunities this weekend. The last time out against a B1G opponent the Spartans gave up 4 power play goals on the weekend and if that happens this weekend the Spartans will be swept. This will be especially important on Friday when playing the road game at Yost Arena.
  2. Get The Lead And Protect- The Spartans have one of the elite goaltenders in all of college hockey in Jake Hildebrand. If they could find a way to get a 2 goal lead this weekend there is a great chance he will hold on to that lead. With the way the Spartans have almost zero ability to create offensive pressure, this is easier said than done, but is essential to trying to sweep this series.
  3. Play Loose- The Spartans have nothing to lose this weekend. The Wolverines should be the more nervous team, as being swept possibly moves them outside the NCAA bubble with just one regular season weekend remaining. The Spartans played loose in the 3-0 win in the GLI and need to play with that attitude the rest of the way this season.
I would love nothing more than to say I see a Spartan sweep this weekend as entirely possible, but I don't. Michigan is too good at Yost Arena and will win there Friday. I think the Spartans find a way to respond Saturday to force a shootout (again) Saturday and get 2 points on the weekend.
Around The B1G
B1G leader Minnesota travels to Ohio State for a weekend series and 2nd place Wisconsin travels to last place Penn State.