Michigan State hockey (2-4) will open up Big Ten play this weekend as they travel to University Park to take on another top ten team in No. 6 Penn State. The Spartans are looking to rebound after getting swept by No. 4 Cornell last weekend.
Head Coach Danton Cole isn’t dwelling on the team’s recent struggles, as he stressed the importance of staying calm and focusing on what the team needs to do better.
“The big emphasis with us is ‘Hey, let’s keep improving every week,’ and that’s a good mentality to have,” Cole said. “You learn, you move on whether you win or lose and you jump right back in the fire with Penn State this weekend.”
The two teams split the season series against each other last year 2-2, with each team winning one at home. Penn State comes into the weekend boasting a 6-1 record, including a sweep against No. 12 Wisconsin last weekend.
The Nittany Lions are averaging 4.6 goals per game and are ranked second in total goals scored (32) through their seven games this season, which means the Spartan defense will be called upon to step up and the team as a whole will need to stay out of the penalty box.
Sophomore goaltender Drew DeRidder was pulled during the team’s 6-2 loss last weekend, and Cole was non-committal as to who will start in net Friday. While he said he is not worried about the play of both DeRidder and senior goaltender John Lethemon moving forward, Cole wants to see his skaters step up in high-pressure situations, such as special teams.
After collecting a grand total of 16 penalties against Cornell last weekend, Cole said the penalty kill was a point of emphasis during practice this week.
“We need a few more timely saves from our goalies,” Cole said. “If we go a minute and fifty (seconds) and don’t give up a shot, and they get one shot and score, that’s a tough penalty kill. It’s demoralizing in the sense that you’ve done a great job for that long, and then you have a quick breakdown ... your goalie has to be your best penalty killer."
"We also have to start eliminating those chances: maybe get a little more pressure, a few more clears. That’s something that we’ll work on because it will be a big part of the game this weekend," Cole said.
Cole also juggled the lines in practice this week, citing the “Mike Babcock Theory” as his reasoning for putting two guys with good speed on each line. The green and white will look to find combinations that can keep up with the potent scoring attack of Penn State as they look to get their season back on track.