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Preview: MSU hockey returns, hosts series against Arizona State

February 13, 2021
<p>Senior right defenseman Tommy Miller (12) fights to regain possession of the puck in the first period. The Spartans triumphed against the Sun Devils, 2-0, on Nov. 20, 2020.</p>

Senior right defenseman Tommy Miller (12) fights to regain possession of the puck in the first period. The Spartans triumphed against the Sun Devils, 2-0, on Nov. 20, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

The Michigan State hockey team is back in action for the first time in the month of February this weekend for a two-game series on Sunday and Monday at Munn Ice Arena. Game one starts at 3 p.m. while game two starts at 5 p.m.

Their opponent, Arizona State (5-13-2), last played the Spartans in November for MSU’s first series of the year. The first game ended in a 1-1 tie with defenseman Christian Krygier scoring the lone Michigan State goal. The second game was a 2-0 victory for MSU on goals from forwards Mitchell Mattson and Mitchell Lewandowski.

However, ASU is now in the home stretch of a truly odd season where they have played every game on the road, and the fatigue is starting to settle in. 

Since the last meeting between Arizona State and Michigan State, ASU has struggled and lost seven of their last eight games in the Big Ten. Their best part of the season so far came right after they played MSU where they rattled off three consecutive wins, a two-game sweep of the now first-place Wisconsin Badgers and a win at Notre Dame. 

The Sun Devils last played last weekend in a two-game scrimmage versus the U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program losing the first game and winning the second – their only ‘home games’ of the season. They last played in the Big Ten on Jan. 21 and 22 at No. 4 Minnesota and got whooped losing 10-0 and 10-2. 

They do a good job of scoring goals, scoring 2.70 goals per game which is near the average across the country, led by freshman Matthew Kopperud with 12 goals, tied for second-best in the country. 

The problem for the Sun Devils has been keeping pucks out of their own net. In 2020-21 they have given up an atrocious 4.45 goals per game, which is dead last in the country. 

Junior Evan Debrouwer and freshman Cole Brady have split duties in net, with Debrouwer getting the majority of the starts at 15. Neither of them has been the answer though that ASU head coach Greg Powers is looking for and is a big reason for the Sun Devils’ disappointing record after being ranked No. 15 before the season started. 

Injuries through the middle of the season have also plagued Arizona State. 

“I think they will be probably a little bit more similar to what we saw earlier in the year,” MSU head coach Danton Cole said. “I know through the middle there they had some of those games where they had several guys out, with they had some COVID-19 situations and some injury situations where they were really short-handed. … This will be our fourth series in the last three years against them, and every one of them they have been tough kind of grinding games and they play with speed and they come at you and we will have to be ready for them.”

As for the Spartans, they too have hit a skid in their schedule where they have lost five of the last six games, part of that being a result of the injury bug. MSU was somewhat lucky to not really be bitten in the first half of the season, but the injuries started to pile up in their last series at Wisconsin. 

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MSU’s leading goal scorer Charlie Combs has missed the last four games while defensemen Cole Krygier missed the last two after hobbling out of Munn Ice Arena with a boot on his leg on Jan. 24. Additionally, sophomore forward Nicolas Müller missed the last game and a half after getting injured at Wisconsin while sophomore forward Jagger Joshua served a one-game suspension. 

Luckily for Michigan State, they have not played a game in two weeks giving those banged-up players time to heal. 

Coach Cole said Tuesday he “hopes” that the team will be at 100% this weekend. 

“Guys have been practicing," Cole said. "You hope that everyone will be available. We don't play until Sunday, so that looks fairly promising there."

Having all of those guys would certainly help, but having Combs back, in particular, would be a huge boost for a team that scored just one goal in two games against Wisconsin and has not scored more than two goals since Jan. 9. 

Also during the two week period without games, MSU goaltender Drew DeRidder was named one of 35 goalies on the Mike Richter Award watch list for the nation’s top goaltender. 

If DeRidder is able to play as he has been and the Spartans get a player or two back, they should be able to get back in the win column on home ice. Both games will be broadcasted on BTN+. 

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