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Hockey Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

The Spartans' hockey team hosts the Buckeyes in a key league series

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend was one of missed chances for the Spartans hockey team. Friday night at Penn State the Spartans held a 2-1 lead after the first period and held that lead until there was under 8 minutes to play in the game. Jake Hildebrand made 48 saves including 20 in the first period and 18 in the third period, but non were bigger than the three saves he made in the shootout. The Spartans won the shootout 1-0 and came away with 2 of a possible 3 points. However, the Spartans luck ran out in the second period of Saturday's game. Jake Hildebrand once again had a strong opening period, making 15 saves and the Spartans rebounded from an early goal off of a turnover to take a 2-1 lead. With under 5 minutes remaining in the second, the Nittany Lions scored twice and then opened the third period with two goals in three minutes to turn the game from 2-1 Spartans to 5-2 Nittany Lions.

This weekend the Spartans will look to put together a full sixty minutes against a reeling Ohio State team. The Buckeyes currently are fifth in the league standings, one point behind the Spartans, and are coming off of a 10-6 loss last weekend to Michigan. Penn State and Michigan have separated from the rest of the league at the top and with the Spartans a single point behind Minnesota, this weekend could be key for Michigan State to separate from the bottom of the league.

Ohio State Buckeyes 7-11-2 (2-4 B1G)

Time/TV: 7:00 PM Friday (Fox Sports Detroit), 7:00 PM Saturday (Big Ten Network)

Radio: Spartan Sports Network

OSU SBN Blog: Land Grant Holy Land

Michigan State Spartans Stats Match-Up (National Rank) Ohio State Buckeyes
2.25 (45) Goals Scored/Game 2.90 (23)
2.65 (33) Goals Against/Game 3.55 (50)
11-of-79 13.92% (44) Power Play Percentage 12-of-75 16.00% (36)
61-of-71 85.9% (18) Penalty Kill Percentage 49-of-64 76.6% (53)
Michael Ferrantino (Jr) 9G, 6A 15pts Leading Scorer Anthony Greco 12G, 2A 14pts

Jake Hildebrand (Jr) 7-11-2

2.60 GAA ,911 save %

Expected Goaltenders

Matt Tomkins (So) 4-6-1 3.33 GAA, .878 sv %


Christian Frey (So) 3-5-1 3.38 GAA, .908 sv %

The Spartans have gone 3-4-2 since splitting a series with Ohio State back in November (3-0 win, 3-1 loss). The opening game of that series is one of the most complete efforts the Spartan team has had all season. The Buckeyes have had a tough time keeping scoring down, a regression from the surprise play of goaltenders Matt Tomkins and Christian Frey last season. After a weekend with only one game, a 10-6 defeat to Michigan at home, you can count on the Buckeyes coming to East Lansing ready to play after what was assuredly a tough week of practice.

The Spartans would do well to spotlight Tanner Fritz and Anthony Greco on offense as they can fill the net, with Greco being the leading goal scorer on either team (12). They each also have three power play goals on the season so look for the Buckeye power play to focus on getting these two players on their off wing for great shooting opportunities. Special teams is often the great separator with two teams that are close to equal like the Buckeyes and Spartans and I would expect that to be the case this weekend as well.

On a roster note this weekend may see the return of senior forward Matt Berry. Berry hasn't played since the Minnesota series in early December, after being suspended for failing to meet team expectations. Berry was not allowed at team functions and just began skating with the team last Monday but did not travel to Penn State. If he plays that could be a nice jolt to the offense, especially if the Spartans get an extra motivated Berry.

3 Keys For Spartan Success

  1. Work to draw penalties- The Ohio State penalty kill is one of the worst in the nation killing less than 77% of their penalties. That is something that the Spartans should capitalize on and skating hard and forcing hooking or other stick infractions could play large this weekend.
  2. Quick start- The Spartans played 2 awful first periods last weekend and were still lucky enough to get 2-1 leads in each. In November the Spartans survived a good first five minutes from the Buckeyes before taking control in the 3-0 victory. After a game where double digit goals were scored starting quick and deflating the Buckeyes would be excellent.
  3. Defenseman have to be better- Penn State was opportunistic last weekend, capitalizing on turnovers and creating odd man rushes/breakaways that led to goals. Guys like Carson Gatt, Josh Jacobs and Travis Walsh have been very strong all season and need to rebound from a mistake filled weekend. The Buckeyes still have a productive offense so the defenseman need to up their game.
Around the B1G
There is only one other league series this weekend, with Michigan hitting the road to take on last place Wisconsin. Penn State will be hosting Northern Michigan, who is making the trip to Pennsylvania without coach Walt Kyle who was suspended by the university. Minnesota will be taking place in the North Star Challenge Cup playing national #1 Minnesota State-Mankato on Friday and either Bemidji State or Minnesota-Duluth Saturday.