With Michigan beating Wisconsin in front of TENS of fans, 3-0 after the 2nd period I decided it's a good time to start writing this hockey preview (UM went on to win 5-1). But on a day where there has been so many upsets in March Madness why am I starting this post early? Good question, well I'm starting this post early because Wisconsin has won 4(!) games all year and been shutout in 5 of their last 7 games. This game was over when Zach Hyman made the score 1-0 in the first period.
Well, not much has changed since the Spartans played the Wolverines all of 6 days ago in the regular season finale of the B1G. The Wolverines got two goals from Zach Hyman tonight, who has made the list of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. The Wolverines did switch things up in goal, going with Steve Racine instead of Zach Nagelvoort who gave up four weak goals to the Spartans in last weekends split. Racine was the goaltender in the GLI final when the Wolverines defeated the Spartans 2-1 in possibly his best game of the season. Racine is 2-2 against the Spartans in his career and will present a tougher challenge to the Spartans compared to what they saw last weekend.
Even in the win the Spartans earned last Saturday, they were worked over by the Wolverines pretty well. Michigan State played ultra defensive with a lead and was scared of getting into an up-and-down game with the Wolverines. That strategy is the bread and butter of the Spartans but a better performance from the Matt Berry-Mackenzie MacEachern-Matt DeBlouw line will be crucial Friday night. While B1G player of the year Jake Hildebrand is amazing, counting on a 35 plus save performance in back to back games against an opponent is crazy. The Spartans, who are missing defenseman Travis Walsh (injury) and Carson Gatt (suspension) have played five defenseman the last couple of weekends and the less time spent chasing the puck in their own zone the better.
Plenty of Good Seats Available
If Thursday is any indication there will be plenty of good seats...or sections available Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Underway at the Joe between Michigan and Wisconsin. Winner faces Michigan State. pic.twitter.com/BOUwPYvTCd
— Nate Wells (@gopherstate) March 20, 2015
That was the turnout for a B1G Tournament game, with the "host" school playing. There is no shining this up, it is an utter disappointment. Unless the B1G Conference expands fast, they will lose the 5% of hope I hold out for the league. We get it, meathead fans and Barry Alvarez couldn't understand that B1G hockey teams played in different conferences. But you know what, they played meaningful conference tournaments in front of breathing humans and didn't play the same damn 5 teams from January to March. If you're a Spartans' fan in Detroit I hope you get out to Joe Louis like our own Chris Vannini. Tickets will be cheap and there is no basketball excuse with that game tipping off at 12:30. It's MSU vs. UM for a spot in a league title game, let's hope the crowd equals the magnitude of this game.
3 Keys to Spartan Success
- Shadow Larkin and Hyman- At this point in the Wisconsin-Michigan game it is 4-1, with Larkin and Hyman having three goals. If the Spartans are to beat the Wolverines they will need to limit the damage these two players cause. If they are successful like they were against Wisconsin, on the power play and even strength, it is going to be difficult for the Spartans to advance.
- Jake Hildebrand- Writing this every week makes me feel like I am not a smart hockey mind. I swear I am not mailing these in and I do have expansive hockey knowledge but obvious points being obvious points Jake Hildebrand is a key to a Spartans' win. With 5 defenseman and all the talent up front for the Wolverines the Spartans need a great effort from Hildebrand to win. Last Friday night, in a 5-3 defeat, Hildebrand seemed nervous and fought rebounds all night and not himself. If that Hildebrand shows up this Friday the Spartans are doomed.
- Berry-DeBlouw-MacEachern Line- As mentioned above this line was pretty non-existent last weekend. Matt Berry has been a great player against Michigan throughout his career and will be counted on in his last appearance against the Wolverines ever. Look for Tom Anastos to use his last change as the home team to try and get this line in the most favorable match ups they can.
Time/TV: 8:00 P.M. Big Ten Network
Radio: Spartan Sports Network
SBN Michigan Blog: Maize n Brew
Improbably the Spartans' hockey team is just two wins from an NCAA tournament berth. They have defeated all three teams left in the B1G tournament and there is plenty to be excited about. It all starts Friday against a rival they have played over 300 times, the Michigan Wolverines. Hang out here as a game thread and let's get to the B1G Championship!