Sophomore goaltender Drew DeRidder didn’t know he was starting until he got to the rink before Michigan State’s 1-0 loss to Ohio State Friday night.
John Lethemon, who ranks first in the Big Ten and fourth in the country with a .935 save percentage, didn’t dress due to illness, something more than half the team is currently battling. Senior forward Logan Lambdin was also too sick to play, and around eight to 12 other players came into the game feeling less than 100%.
“It hit me a little earlier in the week,” senior captain Sam Saliba said. “Not going to make excuses, but I guess the bug hit us at the wrong time.”
It was DeRidder’s first start since Nov. 2, when he was pulled during MSU’s 6-2 loss to then-ranked No. 4 Cornell. Last season, as a freshman and the youngest goalie in Division I hockey, he started 17 games and led the team with a 3.23 GAA and .906 save percentage.
So there was no panic within the locker room once the team received word that Lethemon would be unable to play Friday night, because they had a perfectly capable replacement in DeRidder. It took a little time for him to get acclimated to game action, but once DeRidder made his first save of the game, he regained his comfort and locked in.
“It’s a feeling I haven’t had (recently),” DeRidder said. “It’s kind of hard to explain.”
Despite the loss, DeRidder didn’t look out of place. He stopped 33 of 34 shots, with the lone goal allowed being a fluky shot that missed wide and redirected off the boards and in. Bad luck has been a theme for DeRidder this season, as the Spartan offense has only been able to muster up three goals in the four games that he has appeared in. The boards at Munn Ice Arena usually provide favorable bounces for the Spartans, but tonight it was the visiting team who reaped the benefits.
“They took advantage of it,” DeRidder said. “Everyone in the Big Ten knows that this rink has very active boards, and they use it.”
As of right now, it’s unclear whether it will be DeRidder or Lethemon in the net for Saturday's rematch with the Buckeyes, and DeRidder said he doesn’t expect to know until closer to game time.