After a one-week absence, Michigan State Spartans hockey is back in State College, Pennsylvania where MSU faces off against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Both games will broadcast on B1G+ and will air live on Lansing’s WJIM 1240 AM. The two teams square off Friday (Dec. 3) at 7 p.m. and Saturday (Dec. 4) at 5 p.m. at Penn State’s “Hockey Valley” or Pegula Ice Arena.
The Spartans are coming off of a nice home sweep against Wisconsin in mid-November, but will go on the road for two consecutive weekends for Big Ten matchups against Penn State and Notre Dame. Michigan State is currently 8-5-1 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten play this season.
Penn State is coming into this weekend’s series at 9-6-0, but 1-5 in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions are led by junior forward Kevin Wall, who has 10 goals and six assists this season.
Last week, the Nittany Lions were given the closest thing to a bye week as possible: the 1-15 St. Thomas Tommies. Yes, Penn State walked out with a sweep. Prior to that, PSU executed an exciting split against No. 7 Minnesota. The Spartans will be looking to curb some of that excitement.
One reason for Michigan State’s success this year has been the depth of scoring. Senior forward Mitchell Lewandowski (13), sophomore forward Jeremy Davidson (11) and junior forward Josh Nodler (11) lead MSU in point totals. Defenseman Cole Krygier has eight points and Erik Middendorf has nine. There’s no shortage of heroes.
Michigan State’s recent momentum was sparked by a three-goal comeback against Ferris State early in the season. MSU also outscored Wisconsin 8-4 and it came at the right time. The Ferris State series was key for the Spartans since MSU had just suffered heartbreak against Michigan a week prior, being swept by the Wolverines.
Slowing Wall down will be a huge key for MSU to try and help out senior goalkeeper Drew DeRidder, who looked fantastic against the Badgers.
DeRidder was the star of the series against Wisconsin, with a total of 88 saves in both games and a .956 save percentage. His resumé even includes a shutout against Ferris State a few weeks ago and a 2.08 goals against average.
It will be important for Michigan State’s defense to help out DeRidder since a breakdown of special teams can lead to quick scores for the opposition. The most goals he’s surrendered this season is four, against Ohio State. In the game against Michigan, where the Wolverines scored seven, he did not play.
It will be up to Michigan State to score timely goals and help the defense if the Spartans want to improve their Big Ten standing to 4-3, and start moving up.