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Michigan State vs. #13 Michigan Hockey Preview

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Michigan State will square off against the hottest team in all of college hockey

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Friday night will mark the second time that Michigan State and Michigan will square off in hockey this season and it will be the first time the game will count in the Big Ten standings. The Wolverines defeated the Spartans back on December 29, 2-1 in the Great Lakes Invitational Championship game, in a contest that Wolverines goaltender Steve Racine was great and forward Alex Kile was a human highlight reel.

Since then the Wolverines have been on an offensive tear, scoring 4,7,10,7 and 6 goals in their past 5 games. The Wolverines have vaulted themselves to 1st place in the league standings and played themselves into a spot in the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid if the tournament started today. They have been led in this surge by the Hobey Baker caliber play of senior forward Zach Hyman (Toronto, Ontario) who has 15 points in the past 5 games. This offensive surge has catapulted Hyman to 4th in the country in scoring with 35 points and brought serious heat on the Hobey Baker race that has all season been led by Boston University forward Jack Eichel. Hyman has been playing on a line with Dylan Larkin (Freshman, Detroit Red Wings draft pick) and Justin Selman which will be the line to watch tonight.

While the Michigan offense is leading the country in goals scored per game (4.36 per contest) their defense has not been as consistent. Michigan is 44th in the country surrendering 3 goals per game and has been hampered by a young defense corps and mediocre play from their goaltenders. Now, some of the scoring the Wolverines are giving up can be attributed to score effects, as teams with a lead tend to take their foot off the gas but this has been a season long problem for the Wolverines. I would expect the Spartans to see a different goaltender than they did at the GLI, as sophomore Zach Nagelvoort played Saturday last weekend in a 6-0 shutout of the Wisconsin Badgers. Nagelvoort entered Friday night's game (a 7-4 Michigan victory) after Steve Racine had surrendered 3 first period goals. Racine has been pulled in his last three starts, yet amazingly Michigan has still manged to win all 3 of those games.

Michigan State is coming off possibly their best weekend of play in the past two seasons, sweeping the Ohio State Buckeyes at Munn Ice Arena. Last weekend saw the return of forward Matt Berry and it seemed to effect the entire team and bring new energy. Berry will be key tonight as he always seems to have success against the Wolverines and this game could turn into an offensive shootout with the way the Wolverines are playing right now.

#13 Michigan Wolverines 15-7- 0 (7-1-0 B1G)

Time/TV: 7:30 PM from Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI. Fox Sports Detroit.

Webstream: BTN2Go

UM SBN Blog/This Weeks Q&A: Maize n Brew || Q&A w/ David and Joe

Radio: Spartan Sports Network

Michigan State Spartans Stats Match-Up (National Rank) #13 Michigan Wolverines
2.32 (44) Goals Scored/Game 4.36 (1)
2.45 (25) Goals Against/Game 3.00 (44)
13-of-85 15.29% (38) Power Play Percentage 20-of-81 24.69% (2)
67-of-77 87.0% (11) Penalty Kill Percentage 62-of-78 79.5% (43)
Matt Berry (Sr) 8G, 8A 16pts Leading Scorer Zach Hyman (Sr) 16G, 19A 35pts

Jake Hildebrand (Jr) 9-11-2

2.41 GAA, .918 save %

Expected Goaltenders

Zach Nagelvoort (Soph) 9-6-0

2.54 GAA, .908 save %

3 Keys for Spartan Success

  1. Jake Hildebrand- This probably could go without saying but Hildebrand is the key to a Spartan win in Detroit tonight. While his team will continue to do it's thing and block 15-20 shots, Hildebrand will have to be excellent, the way he was against the Buckeyes last weekend. The Wolverines roll three lines that can all score at any time so there will be mismatches all night. Hildebrand will need to minimize rebounds, cover the puck whenever he gets a chance to slow down play and be the best player on the ice tonight.
  2. Cox-Ferrantino-Haag Line- The scoring line tonight will be MacEachern-DeBlouw-Berry, so the Ferrantino line will likely be the line counted on to shut down and match the Hyman line. Ferrantino is the best two-way center on the team and Cox is a great winger in his own end. This line needs to have a great game defensively to keep the Spartans in it.
  3. Discipline- The Spartans' penalty kill has been on fire, not surrendering a power play goal since December 6 against Minnesota, a span of 7 games. Minnesota is the only team with a better power play in the country than tonight's opponent, the Michigan Wolverines. This will be a strength on strength battle and the Spartans would do well to avoid taking costly penalties tonight.
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Around the B1G
This will be the last weekend where any B1G team is not in play against a conference opponent. Penn State plays #15 Vermont on Saturday in Philadelphia. Minnesota, out of the top 20 for the first time in nearly four years, is traveling to play Wisconsin for a series.

TOC News
In case you missed it in the Rutgers recap, Joe Tuohey announced that he is the new manager of The Only Colors. Joe is one of my best "internet" friends because of just one football season together at TOC (see:our creation of the Maryland drinking game and be sure to follow our twitter convos for a fun time). Joe will be a great leader and I am so happy that SB Nation has chosen him to lead the charge. Also, he mentioned a mailbag segment and I wanted to say if anyone ever has hockey questions or interest in a mailbag feature be sure to email myself (JeremyWDewar@gmail.com) or Joe and he will forward those questions on.

I want to treat this preview as a stream to hang out in during the game. Be sure to comment often on this Hate Day on Ice! Also be sure to follow me on twitter @Jeremy_Dewar. Go Green! Go White!