Weekend Preview: Spartans Host Wolverines in First Leg

The Spartans will welcome the Wolverines into East Lansing for a high-stakes Big Ten matchup at Munn Ice Arena as the two teams open up another chapter in hockey’s most-played rivalry. In their last meeting in November, the Spartans swept the Wolverines, winning 4-3 in Ann Arbor and 3-0 at home. Michigan holds a 165-137-24 edge in the all-time series, but both the Spartans and Wolverines have their eyes on something bigger this time around.

Michigan State (14-13-1, 10-7-1) is coming off of a weekend split away at Minnesota, where they lost 4-1 in the first leg before bouncing back and winning 4-2 in the second. In the second matchup, four different Spartans found the back of the net, including three in the third period in the come-from-behind victory. Senior forward Patrick Khodorenko netted his team-leading 15th goal and added an assist in the victory. Khodorenko is now 4th in the Big Ten in points and second in goals behind Wisconsin’s Cole Caufield. Goaltender John Lethemon continued his dominant season, remaining first in the nation in save-percentage, second in shutouts, and seventh in GAA. The Spartans come into the rivalry matchup tied for second in the Big Ten with Minnesota and Ohio State at 31 points, two behind first place Penn State. Michigan, Michigan State, and Minnesota have 18 games played to Penn State and Ohio State’s 20.

The Michigan Wolverines (13-12-3, 8-8-2) have recently turned their season around, sweeping Wisconsin and scoring 13 goals last weekend to move up to 27 points. Early in the season, the Wolverines looked like everything but contenders for the Big Ten crown. Stellar play from sophomore goaltender Strauss Mann and the offense finding its stride has shot the Wolverines back into the mix. Despite being sixth in the conference, the Wolverines are only six points out of first place. Senior forward Jake Slaker leads the Wolverine offense with 21 points. He has five goals and five assists in his last seven games.

Friday’s puck drop is set for 6 p.m. Game two is on Monday at Little Caesars Arena.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Discipline and special teams

The Spartans killed all five penalties they faced against Minnesota last weekend. They have not conceded a power-play goal since Jan. 10 against Minnesota, a game in which they took eight penalties. In the last five contests that Michigan State has scored a power-play goal, four have been wins, and in those four games the Spartans scored four goals in each. The rock-solid penalty kill has been a mainstay of this squad for the majority of the season and finding the back of the net on the power-play takes them over the hump.

IN THE BIG TEN:

Penn State vs Wisconsin

Notre Dame vs Minnesota

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Author:

Stephen Hawn

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