Coming off a split weekend with Michigan, the MSU hockey team (4-5-1 overall, 3-3-0 CCHA) now must lace up its skates to take on CCHA opponent and nationally ranked Miami (Ohio) (6-2-1 overall, 3-2-1-1 CCHA) in Oxford, Ohio, this weekend.
The RedHawks, ranked No. 4 on both USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine’s and USCHO.com’s polls, likely will prove to be the Spartans’ toughest opponent since opening up the season against then-No. 1/2 Minnesota.
“I’ve watched them on video half a dozen times,” head coach Tom Anastos said at Tuesday’s press conference.
“I’d like to see them in person now. They play really hard, and they’re a good team. They’ve done a good job building a culture that, in spite of bringing in a lot of new (players), they are coming into a culture. That’s what we want to establish here.”
Freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand said he knows a couple of highly skilled players on the RedHawks’ team, but he believes the Spartans match up with them. Sophomore forward Matt Berry added that the confidence gained in recent days should play to the Spartans’ advantage.
“We’re just going to have to play well offensively,” Hildebrand said. “Our (defense has) been playing really well, blocking shots, our (penalty kill’s) been good. All the guys have been sacrificing the body, making good plays, keeping it simple. As long as we do that, we should be fine.”
Similar to MSU, Miami (Ohio) split its weekend with Michigan, losing 4-2 the first night and winning 4-3 the second night. At the time, Michigan was ranked No. 6.
After coming off a 5-1 loss to the Wolverines last Friday, MSU responded the following night with a 7-2 victory over its cross-state rival.
Scoring more goals than any other game, Anastos said he hopes his team will take the momentum from the second half of the Michigan series and carry it over to this weekend’s road trip.
“What I do hope is we can take the experience that we had on Saturday night against a good team and realize that we can play at a certain level if we have everybody playing together and all dialed in and so on,” Anastos said. “We’ve got to find that magic because we don’t have a lot of guys on our team who are these really emotional guys, so you have to manufacture it a little bit. There’s the balance that we have to find.”