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Michigan State Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes men’s ice hockey preview

The Spartans need to rebound to keep NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: JAN 15 Michigan State at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan State ice hockey team (11-12-1) is in search of some good fortune, as the Spartans host the Ohio State Buckeyes this weekend.

After a victory in the Great Lakes Invitational showcase against Michigan Tech, MSU has been on the losing end of late, suffering back-to-back sweeps to Minnesota at home and Wisconsin on the road. In part, much of this sorrow is due to the absence of leading point-scorer Mitchell Lewandowski — the Spartans are 1-8 without him in the starting lineup this season.

Michigan State’s next three opponents are tough: Ohio State for two games at home, Minnesota for two games on the road, then Michigan on the road and at Little Caesars Arena for the “Duel in the D” event. Michigan State is 1-5 against those three teams this season. Add Penn State at home to close the season, and MSU’s remaining schedule is second-toughest in the NCAA.

The lone win for Michigan State against this schedule came versus Ohio State back in October, when the Spartans took a split in the series, winning the first game 2-1. Michigan State fell in the second game, surrendering three goals in the final 12 minutes of the game.

Junior forward Erik Middendorf has stepped up for Michigan State lately, scoring three goals in the Spartans’ last three games. He has four points in that span as well.

Prior to the series against Minnesota, the Spartans killed off 17 consecutive penalties until the streak was snapped in the second game against the Golden Gophers. Then Michigan State surrendered four power-play goals in the series against Wisconsin.

It’s likely that senior goaltender Drew DeRidder and sophomore Pierce Charleson will get a split between the posts against Ohio State. Charleson is averaging more than 35 saves per game and has two games with more than 50 saves. Both have split time in net during the Big Ten contests, with DeRidder only taking all of the ice time in the Great Lakes Invitational showcase against Western Michigan and Michigan Tech.

Despite the split ice time, DeRidder has been a star for Michigan State this season, having a goals-against-average of less than two per game going into the 2022 calendar year, and one that currently stands at a mark of 2.29 on the season. He’s been honored with two Big Ten First Star of the Week awards this season and was recently nominated to the “watch list” for the Richter Award, given annually to the best goaltender in NCAA Division I.

Michigan State is going to need a miracle to make the NCAA Tournament now. The Spartans could hope to win the Big Ten title, which offers an automatic bid into the tournament, but that would mean defeating Michigan or Minnesota, or both, which MSU has not been able to do either yet.

The first game against Ohio State starts this Friday (Jan. 21) at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, while the second game begins Saturday (Jan. 22) at 6 p.m. Both games will be at Munn Ice Arena and air on B1G+.