The Michigan State Spartans men’s ice hockey program is ready to wrap up its disappointing 2021-2022 season with a two-game home series against Big Ten rival Penn State.
MSU is currently riding a 12-game losing streak and has fallen into last place in the Big Ten standings. With its NCAA Tournament hopes out of the picture, there isn’t much to look for this weekend. However, the Spartans (14 points) could jump the Nittany Lions (17 points) with a sweep.
A sweep would mean that Michigan State does not finish in last place again, which it has done in four of the last five seasons.
Last weekend, the Spartans’ senior forward Mitchell Lewandowski made his long-awaited return. Lewandowski had been out since Michigan State defeated Michigan Tech in overtime back in December. During his 10-game absence, Michigan State was 0-10.
Lewandowski’s return didn’t mean much for Michigan State, unfortunately. After playing well against Notre Dame on Friday night, MSU played sloppy, which led to a 4-2 loss on Saturday.
Freshman forward Jesse Tucker has been magnificent for Michigan State this season. He’s currently tied with Jeremy Davidson in total points with 22.
Another freshman, defenseman David Gucciardi, has shown to be an exceptional talent with soft hands and great agility. Although he fell out of position and allowed Notre Dame to score its first goal last Saturday night, Gucciardi still could be a big part of this Michigan State team moving forward. He’s only 19, after all.
Mistakes and costly turnovers are partly to blame for Michigan State’s slide. Even the worst teams can win one or two games against good teams. MSU, however, has been swept in each of its last six series.
Penn State is on a slide of its own. The Nittany Lions blew a 3-0 lead to fall 6-4 to Minnesota on Saturday. It’s the latest in a five-game nightmare for PSU, although nothing compared to what MSU has been through.
The last time that Penn State won a game was against Ohio State, winning in a shootout on Jan. 28, but you’d need to go a week further for Penn State’s last regulation win. PSU blew out Wisconsin 7-2 and 4-1 in a sweep at home.
Penn State can be a tricky team to figure out. When Michigan State played the Nittany Lions back in December, the Spartans took a split. The Nittany Lions are led in points by junior forward Kevin Wall (27). He also leads the team in goals with 14.
Most concerning for Penn State’s sake is its goaltending, which has been less than impressive this season. Together, PSU goaltenders have amassed a total of 3.32 goals against average, and a save percentage of .888.
If you’re looking for a matchup between the “worsts of the Big Ten,” this is it. Michigan State and Penn State are desperately looking to dig themselves out of a whole. Right now is the time to do that.
Both games are at Munn Ice Arena, with Friday’s tilt is at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, while the puck drop for Saturday’s contest is at 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Both games will be broadcast on B1G+.