Michigan State returns home for crucial final home stand against Penn State
Who: Michigan State Hockey vs. Penn State
When: 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
Where:Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, MI
TV/Streams: BTN Plus
Radio: Spartan Sports Network
Michigan State (10-15-5, 6-10-4 Big Ten) has dropped two of its last three games as they get set to face No. 17 Penn State (16-10-2, 8-9-1 Big Ten) in their potential final home series, that is if they can’t earn enough points this weekend to propel themselves into the Big Ten’s top half.
The Spartans, after losing consecutive matchups against Michigan, find themselves one place behind the Nittany Lions in the standings once again as they are separated by their 24 and 26 respective points.
The skaters realize the gravity of the six points up for grabs this weekend, as MSU is set to travel to Columbus, Ohio for the final regular season weekend to face the first place Ohio State Buckeyes.
“We're fortunate enough to be in this position right now where games matter and points matter heading into this weekend against Penn state,” junior captain Sam Saliba said. “We know where they're at. They're two points ahead of us and we’ve got six points on the line this weekend. So the objective is going and (getting) points and, if we do that, we'll look at the standings and I think we'll like where we're going to be at.”
Stagnant Spartans’ Scoring
MSU’s scoring was stonewalled against a staunch Wolverines unit, as the Spartans totaled just five goals to U-M’s 10 on the weekend. Junior wing Taro Hirose, who failed to record a point for the first time in recent memory on Saturday, anticipates the Spartans’ breaking that trend against Penn State, whose quicker style of play bodes well for the Spartans.
“I think we just played a little slow and tried to do too much around the blue lines. I think if we play a lot faster and chip pucks in and get on the forecheck we're a lot better (as a) team,” Hirose said. “You have to give (Michigan) a lot of credit. They play that sort of system where they slow you up in the neutral zone. So hopefully this weekend, with the way Penn state plays, it'll be a (much) faster series.”
If the current trend holds, freshman Drew DeRidder could start his sixth consecutive game. Despite allowing ten goals against U-M, DeRidder is an integral reason that MSU was competitive in Ann Arbor and Little Caesars Arena. Since MSU coach Danton Cole made the decision to ride the hot hand, DeRidder has assumed and fulfilled the starting role.
The urgent MSU squad, after being dominated by U-M, will return home with the intensity that helped them to a sweep of Minnesota.
Final Score – Friday
MSU 4, Penn State 2