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Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Wolverines men’s ice hockey preview

It’s the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

COLLEGE HOCKEY: FEB 05 Michigan State at Minnesota Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan State Spartans men’s ice hockey team is looking for any sign of life down the stretch. MSU’s first test in the Big Ten Tournament will be against the No. 5-ranked Michigan Wolverines.

To start 2022, the Spartans were a fringe NCAA Tournament team. Now those hopes are long gone. Realistically, winning the Big Ten Tournament is MSU’s only hope to make the national tournament. That would require getting past No. 5 Michigan, and Minnesota, ranked No. 2 nationally.

The top Big Ten seed went to Minnesota, as the Golden Gophers just clinched the program’s fifth Big Ten regular season title in the eight-year history of Big Ten hockey. That top seed is given a first-round bye. The first round is a best-of-three set between each team. The semifinals and finals are both single-elimination.

If Michigan State somehow defeated Michigan in a best-of-three this weekend, it would require winning two games at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. It would also mean that MSU faces Minnesota by default since the Spartans are seeded the lowest. MSU is 0-8 against both teams combined this season.

Michigan State hasn’t shown any fight since the calendar turned over to 2022. MSU lost its then-points leader in Mitchell Lewandowski at the end of December, lost Griffin Loughran and the team has seemed to have given up. If you think it’s frustrating to watch MSU men’s basketball, try watching MSU hockey. The Spartans are 1-13 in the last 14 games.

The Spartans have not actually made an NCAA Tournament since 2012, when Michigan State took an exit in the first round. The program is also far removed from its last NCAA Frozen Four victory in 2007 when the Spartans defeated Boston College to win the national championship.

Defeating Michigan will be no small feat. The first round is a best-of-three to prevent undeserving teams from reaching the Big Ten tournament finals, or to prevent deserving teams from being knocked off early.

Even without its best players — many of whom were at the Winter Olympics in Beijing — Michigan treated Michigan State like a pee-wee team. There was no resistance to beating MSU. Since 2019, the Spartans are 3-11 in the rivalry. It is possible that a miracle can happen, but an upset should not be expected in this case.

Puck drop for each game this weekend is at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. The first game is Friday on FS2, followed by a Saturday matchup on Bally Sports Detroit. If necessary, the two teams will play a third game on Sunday (FS2).