EAST LANSING - The Michigan State Spartans (14-15-1, 10-9-1) will look to end their recent skid as they host the No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes (16-10-4, 9-8-3). The Spartans have lost four of their last five, including being swept by the Michigan Wolverines, losing 5-1 in East Lansing and 4-1 at Little Caesars Arena.
The Buckeyes will be rested, as they did not play last weekend with a bye. They are also looking to improve on their performance as of late, with only one win in their last five, dropping three and losing an extra point in a shootout against Penn State.
Michigan State and Ohio State are tied for fourth in the Big Ten with 31 points in 20 games played. They are two points back of the third place Michigan Wolverines with 33 and five points out of first place, shared by Penn State and Minnesota with 36 points. Notre Dame trails closely behind with 29 points. With the exception of first place Penn State and seventh place Notre Dame, every team has four games remaining with a potential 12 points to grab.
In their previous meeting over Thanksgiving weekend, the Buckeyes swept the Spartans, winning 3-1 and 2-0 in Columbus.
Michigan State’s senior goaltender John Lethemon, who for much of the season was first in the nation in save-percentage, drops into a tie for fourth with Michigan’s netminder Strauss Mann. Lethemon looks to bounce back from his worst weekend of the season. The usual shut-down goaltender was a ghost of himself against the Wolverines last weekend, letting in nine goals on 59 shots in two games against the red-hot Michigan offense.
The Spartans will look to their upperclassmen leaders to end the recent offensive drought. The team has only scored more than one goal once in their last five games. In all of their losses this calendar year, the Spartans have not scored more than one. They have scored four goals in all four of their wins since the new year. Leading scorer Patrick Khodorenko and his linemates in senior captain Sam Saliba and junior Mitch Lewandowski are the catalysts of offensive production. The Spartans have not won a game in which the top line did not register a goal since December 6th in a 3-0 win over Wisconsin.
Contributions from junior captain Tommy Apap and senior Logan Lambdin are critical, as the top line will likely face the toughest matchups from the Buckeyes. Special teams will once again be key, as the Spartans were swept in the man-up and short-handed battles by the Wolverines and felt the effects.
Ohio State is led by a senior forward duo of Tanner Laczynski and Carson Meyer. Laczynski and Meyer have combined for 48 points, and are two of ten Buckeyes in double-digit scoring. Meyer, Ohio State’s leading healthy goal-scorer with sophomore Gustaf Westlund injured, has scored four goals in their last six games, including a power-play tally assisted by Laczynski in their most recent game.
Game one puck drop is set for 7 p.m. on Friday.
IN THE BIG TEN:
Minnesota vs Penn State
The Gophers and Nittany Lions, tied for first in the conference with 36 points, will meet in Pennsylvania this weekend. The two games will be the last of the regular season for Penn State. They can finish the regular season as high as first place and as low as sixth.
Michigan vs Notre Dame
The Wolverines have won four straight contests, scoring 22 goals in that span. With a sweep of Michigan State last weekend, they jumped over the Spartans and Buckeyes into third place in the Big Ten with 33 points. The Irish sit in sixth with 29 points and look to find consistency after a rocky 2020.
Wisconsin vs Arizona State
The Badgers are mathematically guaranteed a seventh place finish in the regular season, as they trail Notre Dame by nine points with only six left possible to earn. They will host Arizona State in Madison this weekend.