MSU hockey to face tough test in No. 5 North Dakota
For the first time since 1980 North Dakota hockey (10-2-2) will skate at Munn Ice Arena. Part of Friday and Sunday series, MSU hockey (4-5-2) will face the newly nicknamed Fighting Hawks.
Not that the new nickname will faze North Dakota much. Playing as usual with a vast amount of speed, skill, and depth it comes into the weekend having only lost twice to St. Cloud State and Wisconsin.
“North Dakota, doesn’t get easier for us, it gets tougher,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “They’re a terrific team, talented, deep, hard working, physical, they have high expectations for their program this year so they’re a legitimate tournament and championship contender.”
North Dakota has scored 48 goals this season, fifth in the national rankings, also puts up an average of nearly 36 shots on a goal a game. With MSU struggling to keep the puck out of the net, allowing 3.09 goals a game, it will have its hands full.
“One thing we have to get back to our fundamentals and what we are known for last year was kinda keeping the puck out of the net,” senior forward Joe Cox said. “So if we can keep that point production but also get back to that stone cold D that’d be ideal.”
MSU, however, has been stout offensively as well, producing 3.36 goals a game. MSU has proven as well that it can hang with tough ranked competition. Losing 6-4 to Boston College, after climbing back from a 4-1 deficit to tie it 4-4, and holding two two goal leads over Michigan Tech until surrendering two goals late each time, the Spartans are only steps away from becoming a great team.
“It’s tough because you know I honestly I thought we played pretty well,” senior captain Michael Ferrantino said. “Although we’re disappointed obviously we didn’t get the wins, I think we’re staying up a little bit just because we can see there is progress being made.”
MSU will face a weak power play from North Dakota who ranks 39th in NCAA in powerplay goals. MSU has killed off 38 of 42 opponent power plays good enough for eighth nationally.
Senior goaltender Jake Hildebrand however has been unusually shaky for the Spartans, allowing 12 goals in the past three games. He was pulled in the second game against Michigan Tech after allowing two goals on six shots. No goalie has been named starter yet for the weekend, but expect Hildebrand to be in net for MSU.
The games this weekend will come down to MSU’s ability to keep North Dakota to the outside the net and keeping them from getting into the prime scoring areas. MSU will also have to cut turnovers at the blue line and make simple plays if it wants to stay competitive with the Fighting Hawks.
“I think it’ll be another nice test for us," Anastos said. "That’s been the nice part for us while we’re not completely getting for sure the results we want, I think we’re getting better."