The Michigan State ice hockey team is in the middle of a six-game slide. But, this weekend, MSU played its best hockey since the Great Lakes Invitational showcase against Michigan Tech. It was arguably the best play that the team has shown without Mitchell Lewandowski in the lineup as well.
The Spartans ultimately ended up on the losing end after a third consecutive sweep to a Big Ten team. This time, No. 15 Ohio State. After suffering a 4-1 blowout loss on Friday night, a very different Michigan State team took the loss Saturday.
On Friday, MSU looked lazy and punch-less, an extension of the team’s previous road series against Wisconsin.
Senior goaltender Drew DeRidder was clearly frustrated.
“We are never lacking in effort,” DeRidder said following the game on Friday. “It’s just a need to be smarter with the puck. Smarter plays, just a lot of turnovers. A lot of unnecessary turnovers, just shooting ourselves in the foot a lot.”
The overnight tone change may have been sparked by Michigan State’s lack of shots. It’s hard to remember the last time that the Spartans actually outshot their opponent. But that was the case on Saturday, as Michigan State ended up on the positive side, a 42-30 difference.
Despite Michigan State’s six-game slide, fans were not in short supply as more than 6,200 people wearing Green and White came to show support. It was obvious that both sides did not care for one another as play was physical for all 60 minutes, and fans were even chanting expletives at Ohio State throughout the game. Jagger Joshua had another goaltender collision, as he was called for goaltender interference in the first period.
The Spartans ended up drawing pressure late in the game with a power play and pulling DeRidder. MSU had a one-man advantage for the final three minutes of the game. With just over one minute left to play, Tanner Kelly put one past the Buckeyes’ goaltender Jakub Dobés. It still wasn’t enough, though, and Michigan State fell yet again. The final score on Saturday night was 3-2 in Ohio State’s favor.
One bright spot for the Spartans was freshman defenseman David Gucciardi. After setting up MSU’s first goal mid-way through the second period, Gucciardi was winning puck battles and staying aggressive as the Spartans kept killing penalties. He’s been a nice addition to Michigan State’s power-play unit as well.
Absolutely beautiful goal off of the redirect from Gucciardi to Middendorf.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) January 23, 2022
It's Middendorf's ninth of the season. pic.twitter.com/DZ23n0DWrn
Junior forward Erik Middendorf, who had one of Michigan State’s two goals on Saturday, says that goal-scoring should be a top priority heading into the off week.
“We just need to find the back of the net more,” Middendorf said in Michigan State’s postgame presser. “We can’t win too many games scoring two goals in the Big Ten.”
Head coach Danton Cole wants Michigan State to have the “memory of a goldfish,” as many fans may recall as a reference to the Apple TV+ comedy, “Ted Lasso.” “We need to have a 10-second memory...Guys did a heck of a job (tonight).”
Michigan State played competitive hockey for 60 minutes on Saturday night, but still came up short, It will be interesting to see how the Spartans respond moving forward.
Now, the Spartans head into the off-week with a lot to focus on. The Spartans slid to sixth place in the Big Ten (out of seven hockey teams) and are behind fifth-place Wisconsin by one point. Penn State — in seventh place — just swept Wisconsin.
With a victory next weekend against Ohio State, the Nittany Lions could pass Michigan State in the Big Ten standings, as only three points separate Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State.
Following the week off, Michigan State’s road gets tougher: two games in Minneapolis to take on Minnesota, then one contest on the road at Michigan in Ann Arbor before playing a neutral-site game against Michigan at Little Caesars Arena.