Growing up in Michigan, the MSU-U-M rivalry simply is a part of life.
It’s the line dividing households, cities and the entire Mitten state. It’s the source of those two color combinations that residents display with pride on their clothing, bumper stickers and flags.
It’s the matchups that bring out the best and the worst in people, and most of all, it’s not just a game.
Tom Anastos knows it’s not just a game.
His team knows that.
The entire Spartan community knows that.
Although football and basketball might be the most intense matches of the year, Mike Ferrantino always has dreamt of taking the ice against the Wolverines (3-3-1 overall, 1-2-1-0 CCHA).
Today, he’s going to get that opportunity.
“I’ve been going to the (Great Lakes Invitational) and coming up here and to Yost (Ice Arena) for games basically my whole life,” the freshman forward and Plymouth, Mich., native said. “It was always kind of a dream to be a part of this rivalry and play in those big-time games.”
Similar to Ferrantino, MSU hockey (3-4-1 overall, 2-2-0 CCHA) sophomore forward Brent Darnell grew up attending MSU-U-M rivalry games.
One game he fondly recalled was MSU-U-M taking each other on for the 2006 CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena. MSU won that game 4-1 and went on to win the CCHA in a 2-1 game against Miami (Ohio).
“(It’s) things like that that you remember, and it’s how the rivalry is so special,” Darnell said. “To see stuff like that when you’re younger then actually living through it and scoring a goal against Michigan and scoring a goal at a place like Yost is pretty special.”
After going 1-3-1 last season against Michigan, Darnell is ready to redeem home-state bragging rights, and that opportunity begins this weekend.
The series kicks off Friday at 7:35 p.m. at Yost Ice Arena, then the teams will head back to East Lansing for a 7:05 p.m. puck-drop Saturday at Munn Ice Arena.
“People talk about rivalry games and throughout the records and all those sorts of things,” Anastos said. “The history kind of carries the day, and I would expect that to be the case. They’re a very good team. They were picked to be really high both nationally and within the league and we’re an inexperienced group who’s going to experience (for) the first time, for many guys, what the rivalry means.”
Although some of the new out-of-town Spartans might not fully understand the intensity of the dueling teams, seven of the 12 new MSU players are from Michigan hometowns.
And for the five who are from different states or Canada, Darnell said players usually catch on to the rivalry pretty quickly, especially after the MSU-U-M football games.
“We emphasize it here,” Anastos said of the MSU-U-M hockey series.
“I think you’re lying or pretending not to be truthful if you don’t realize it’s an important series. It’s an important series for our team, it’s an important series for our alumni, for our student population, for anybody who follows our program. I think it’s the same for (Michigan).”
Darnell said this weekend might just count as any other win in the standings, but as Anastos said, it’s different; it’s not just a game.