Monday, January 18, 2021

Preview: MSU ice hockey traveling to take on Ohio State

November 28, 2020
Junior left defenseman Christian Krygier (15) and sophomore right wing Nicolas Müller (19) pass the puck back and forth to each other during the third period. The Spartans triumphed against the Sun Devils, 2-0, on November 20, 2020.
Junior left defenseman Christian Krygier (15) and sophomore right wing Nicolas Müller (19) pass the puck back and forth to each other during the third period. The Spartans triumphed against the Sun Devils, 2-0, on November 20, 2020. —
Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

What a busy weekend it will be for Michigan State fans. Tom Izzo and the men’s basketball team will play their second game of the season Saturday along with the football team hosting Northwestern, one of the best teams in the Big Ten. That’s not to mention women’s basketball opening their 2020 season against St. Francis (PA) on Friday. 

Spartan fans will be able to get their hockey fix Saturday and Sunday evenings as the team will travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State (0-2-0). 

Ohio State is a team that has held the Spartans’ hand in recent history. The Buckeyes won all four meetings last year.

Like Michigan State though, Ohio State fields a young roster with 17 underclassmen compared to MSU’s 12. This figures to work in Michigan State’s favor with a less experienced team such as Ohio State coming off two games just on Monday and Tuesday while MSU’s last games were Friday and Saturday. 

For the Spartans to be successful this weekend, they will have to score goals on senior goaltender Tommy Nappier and that might not be all that easy against the reigning Big Ten Goaltender of the Year. Nappier started three of the four games against MSU last year and was dominant. The Spartans were only able to score two goals in three games, all of which were losses for the green and white. 

Nappier holds a career 1.92 goals against average and .934 save percentage, earning him a spot on the 2020-2021 Preseason All-Big Ten Hockey team. 

“He’s big. He’s quick. I think his hockey IQ is pretty good,” Michigan State hockey head coach Danton Cole said. “He knows when to pop out of the net, he knows when to cheat the back door and do some things like that. He does all things good goalies have to do. He’s been very good for them for a few years now.”

However, Minnesota, who was selected as the favorite to win the Big Ten before the season started, was able to get through Nappier. The Golden Gophers netted six goals in two games as the Buckeyes fell 4-1 in the first game and 2-0 in the second game. 

Two other players to watch this weekend on the Ohio State side are forwards Gustaf Westlund and Quinn Preston who were both selected as honorable mentions to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team. 

Westlund got things started early offensively scoring OSU’s only goal of the series in the second period of the first game earlier this week. Preston was second on the team in goals last season with 15 and will look to get his first of the year after going scoreless in the first two games. 

One player on Michigan State’s side who is extra excited for Saturday and Sunday’s games is defenseman Dennis Cesana who will get to face off against one of his old teammates. Cesana and OSU’s Matt Cassidy were teammates on the Brooks Bandits in the AJHL. 

“He’s one of my good buddies ... I’m excited to finally get to play against him,” Cesana said. “He’s a gritty guy, he’s a hard-nosed player. He likes to get to the dirty areas and kind of work the corners and provide some offense.”

Cassidy started his collegiate career at Quinnipiac University where he appeared in 15 games before transferring to Ohio State this season. 

Ohio State is currently ranked at No. 10 in this week’s USCHO poll, but that was before their two losses at Minnesota. Michigan State was not ranked before the season started, but received five votes in the latest poll. 

Watching the battle between Nappier and Michigan State’s starting goaltender Drew DeRidder, who was named the Big Ten Second Star of the Week Wednesday after recording his first career shutout, should be a good one. The puck will drop at 5:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday and can be viewed on BTN+.

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