The Michigan State men’s ice hockey team is in the middle of a disaster, as it fell to No. 4 Michigan twice this weekend.
Michigan (23-7-1, 14-6 in the Big Ten) defeated the Spartans (11-18-1, 5-15 in the Big Ten), as MSU went down for the 10th-straight game. It’s a losing streak that extends back to the beginning of the 2022 calendar year, when Michigan State was swept by Minnesota at home. MSU’s last win of the season came on Dec. 30 versus Michigan Tech.
Since the sweep to Minnesota, MSU has been swept by Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota (again) and now Michigan. That makes the Wolverines 4-0 against Michigan State on the year.
During the losing streak, MSU has fallen to last place in the Big Ten standings, somewhere familiar for the program as of late. Head coach Danton Cole is now 49-79-11 at the helm of the program.
Four of Michigan’s top scorers were away this weekend at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, but that did not stop the Wolverines from beating up on Michigan State twice: a 6-2 final score on Friday night in Ann Arbor, and then 7-3 victory over the Spartans on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Michigan State, which killed 17-straight penalties at one point this season, surrendered three power-play goals to Michigan in the second period of the first game of the series. It was a four-goal massacre within 20 minutes. Two of Michigan’s power-play goals were scored by freshman defenseman Luke Hughes, chosen No. 4 overall in the 2021 NHL Draft by New Jersey.
The Spartans did not record a single shot on goal until the 8:17 mark of the first period.
“The first (period) was OK, the third was OK, but not great,” Cole said in the postgame presser in Ann Arbor. “The second, we did some things and shot ourselves in the foot. We didn’t kill penalties very well at all and had some bad changes. Mentally, we have to be better than that in a game like this. It’s disappointing but we have a night to rectify some things and make a few more plays and be smarter tomorrow (Saturday).”
During the second game in Detroit at Little Caesars Arena, Michigan senior center Jimmy Lambert led the way with two goals of his own.
There was a chance for Michigan State to get back into a 2-0 game when Michigan’s Mark Estapa was sent off for game misconduct. MSU was awarded a five-minute power play. That turned to be a disaster for the Spartans after surrendering two short-handed goals, both 86 seconds apart.
Michigan State did end up scoring two power-play goals within a single minute as sophomore defenseman Nash Nienhuis and senior defenseman Dennis Cesana put the Spartans on the board.
After the Wolverines went up 5-2, MSU’s Nienhuis notched his second goal of the game, and third on the season, bringing the Spartans within two. That wasn’t enough juice, however, as Michigan came away with a 7-3 victory, and the “Iron D” trophy for the sixth year in a row.
Even more interesting, Michigan State won 68 percent of the faceoffs, but couldn’t generate any opportunities.
“Our guys did some things decent, but it was just some reads on some plays and obviously Michigan is a good team that will take advantage of some errors, especially around the second (period),” Cole said in Detroit. “I liked some of the push back after we gave up two shorties. But we kept giving them the next one, which was unfortunate. We’ll stick with it. There’s no other options.”
Michigan State is 1-14 without senior forward Mitchell Lewandowski in the starting lineup, and he’s been out with an injury since MSU’s overtime win against Michigan Tech. There’s been talk of Lewandowski practicing, but he may still be day-to-day.
The Spartans will host Notre Dame next weekend with both games airing on B1G+.