Most MSU student-athletes get the opportunity to face rival Michigan once, maybe twice, a season.
After this weekend draws to a close, MSU hockey (7-17-3 overall, 5-12-1-0 CCHA) will have gotten its fifth.
“They’re always games that we enjoy playing,” senior forward Anthony Hayes said. “They’ll go down in my four years as the most fun.”
The teams have met three times already this season — a two-game series in early November and once at the Great Lakes Invitational.
This weekend, for the 293rd time in history, the Spartans and Wolverines (8-16-2 overall, 5-13-2-0 CCHA) will take the ice again, notching one more game in the most-played rivalry in college hockey.
Friday’s game will take place at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, and Saturday’s game will move to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
“That definitely adds to the excitement,” Hayes said of playing at Joe Louis Arena. “Being a kid who grew up in Michigan, it means a great deal for me to be able to play at Joe Louis Arena, but it is something that adds a little bit of excitement.”
The Wolverines have gone 1-7 the past eight games while the Spartans have gone 2-6. Both teams also fell to the U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program, U-M 5-3, MSU 3-0.
For two struggling teams, this weekend could be either an emotional lift or another disappointment in an already disappointing season.
“They usually tend to bring it against us,” sophomore forward Brent Darnell said. “Even though they’re struggling too … they can turn it on at any time, as we learned at the GLI. We definitely gotta be on our toes and ready for them this weekend.”
MSU’s last series was against Penn State, in which the teams split games. Before that, the Spartans fell to Ferris State. Both teams played a similar style of play, and the Wolverines’ puck-possession type play will be a change for MSU.
“They thrive off the transition,” Darnell said. “They’ve shown us this year they’re going to kill us if we don’t take care of the puck at each blue line. (We) know what to expect from them.”
U-M currently leads this year’s matchups, 2-1. One of MSU’s best played games this season was its 7-2 win over the Wolverines on Nov. 10, and this weekend, the Spartans will look to find that lost spark.
“In big rivalry games, there’s always that little bit more emotion, little bit more excitement,” freshman forward Michael Ferrantino said. “If we give good performances this weekend, we can probably ride some of that momentum the rest of the year.”