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Michigan State Spartans at Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s ice hockey preview

COLLEGE HOCKEY: JAN 14 Michigan State at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan State men’s ice hockey team is headed to Minnesota to run the gauntlet this weekend. The last-place Spartans are taking on the Golden Gophers after suffering a sweep when these two teams met the first time around.

Since MSU’s victory in the Great Lakes Invitational showcase against Michigan Tech, the Spartans have been without the team’s leading point-scorer, fifth-year senior Mitchell Lewandowski. In his absence, freshmen David Gucciardi and Jesse Tucker have managed to step up.

It hasn’t been pretty, though. The Spartans have not won a game since being swept by Minnesota. That includes two losses to Wisconsin and two losses to Ohio State. Now MSU must finish the season against the Golden Gophers on the road, in-state rival Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State.

During the off-week, Michigan State has fallen to last place, as Penn State has now passed MSU in the Big Ten standings. The Spartans are just 5-11 in conference play and 11-14-1 overall this season (15 points).

It’s clear that Michigan State does not have a lot of depth on the roster so it will be important to skate well, prevent turnovers and play solid defense in front of star goaltender Drew DeRidder. Taking advantage on the power play could allow MSU to steal some goals.

Despite the losing streak, Michigan State played its best game of the year against Ohio State last time out. More than 6,200 fans came to see Michigan State take a loss, but it may have been OSU’s goaltender, Jakub Dobés, who stole the show. He was solid in net and carried the Buckeyes to victory.

Minnesota enters the series in third place in the Big Ten with a 10-6 conference record and 15-11 overall record this season (31 points). The Spartans can take solace in the fact that Minnesota’s goaltender Jack LaFontaine was snatched by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes mid-season, something that was controversial this season. Junior Justen Close will likely be in net this weekend for the Golden Gophers.

Still, it will be tough to stop Minnesota’s Ben Meyers, who dominated MSU last time around. Both games will stream live on B1G+ and Bally Sports North. Friday’s game is at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, while Saturday’s game is at 6 p.m. Eastern Time.