Wolverines up, Spartans down heading to hockey series
Michigan and Michigan State will meet on the ice for the first time this season in a home-and-home Big Ten hockey series starting Friday night at Munn Arena in East Lansing.
The teams are headed in opposite directions with the No. 8 Wolverines coming off a Great Lakes Invitational championship and the Spartans going 1-10-1 over their last dozen games.
While Michigan battled back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Michigan Tech, 4-2, in the GLI championship game last week, Michigan State failed to hold leads in both GLI games, losing a 2-0 lead and the semifinal game to Tech, 3-2 in overtime, then falling to Northern Michigan, 2-1 in overtime, in the third-place game, again failing to hold a 1-0 lead late in regulation.
Longtime Michigan coach Red Berenson considers this a big series, since the Wolverines didn’t take care of home ice earlier this season and he knows the Spartans will be ready to play.
“It’s huge since we’ve already given up four points in our two home weekend series against Wisconsin and Minnesota so we have to get something back at Michigan State and we know they (Spartans) are a desperate team,” Berenson said.
“We’re going to have Zach Werenski and Michael Downing, our top two defensemen back. Zach returned Wednesday night from Finland where he was voted the best defenseman in the World Junior tournament. Downing missed the GLI. He was suspended for two games by the Big Ten for a hit against Minnesota so we’ll have both of them back.”
The Wolverines are second in the Big Ten after just four league games. They have one of the top freshmen in the country in 6-foot-1, 180-pound forward Kyle Connor, who has a conference-leading 25 points, including 12 goals, and was the GLI MVP.
Steve Racine has been strong in goal for the Wolverines, stopping 62 of 66 shots he faced in the GLI. He is 6-1-1 this season with a 2.51 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
Michigan State’s strength was supposed to be its defense, but the Spartans have given up 45 goals their last 12 games. They have won just once since Nov. 7 and senior goaltender Jake Hildebrand, an All-American last season, has slipped to 5-12-1 (3.00 GAA, .903).
Michigan vs. Michigan State
Faceoff: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Munn Arena, East Lansing; 7 p.m. Saturday, Yost Arena, Ann Arbor
TV: Friday, ESPN News; Saturday, BTN
Records: Michigan (11-3-3, 2-1-1 Big Ten), Michigan State (5-13-2, 1-3-0)
Notable: This is the first time the teams have played this season. ... Last year, the Wolverines won four of the six matchups, including 4-1 in the Big Ten tournament.