After splitting their season-opening series with Air Force, Michigan State (1-1) is set to take on Miami University (1-1) for a two-game series on Friday and Saturday at Munn Ice Arena.
The Spartans suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss in their season opener against the Falcons on Oct. 8 but bounced back hard with a 5-1 trouncing on Oct. 9 that featured three shorthanded goals, the most dominating Spartan performance since Jan. 5’s win over Penn State.
Michigan State Head Coach Danton Cole said his team displayed assertiveness, determination and passion to secure a vital win on the tail end of their opening series.
“That makes that close game not close,” he said of the extra effort his team was able to give in their finale against Air Force.
Now, Michigan State will look to carry that same focused attack into their series against Miami. Opening on the road, the Redhawks split their first series against Ferris State with a 7-4 victory on Oct. 2 and a 4-3 OT loss on Oct. 3.
The game is something of a familiarity for Cole, who coached against Miami Head Coach Chris Bergeron during his lone season as an assistant at Bowling Green for the 2006-07 season while Bergeron was an assistant at Miami. The Redhawks play “extremely hard,” a trademark of his teams and what Cole considers one of the most difficult parts of going up against them.
Miami is led by senior defenseman and captain Derek Daschke, who racked up three points throughout the Redhawks’ high-scoring opening series. He is flanked by other senior defensemen Will Cullen and Andrew Sinard.
Junior forward Ryan Savage leads Miami with two goals in an offense that’s distributed well this early in the season with nine different Redhawks scoring through two games.
It’s a curious matchup: like Michigan State, they were far from a prolific offensive team last season, yet matched or surpassed their highest goal total from the 2020-21 season with, at least from the outside looking in, an unexpected surge from their respective power-play units.
For the Spartans, the emergence of the power play is an early surprise after fielding a shorthanded unit in 2020-21 that was among the worst in the nation. Cole said the development of the unit on sheer repetition-and the blind hope that it’ll work-and is optimistic production from their two power-play units will continue to trend in the right direction.
“It’s funny,” Cole said. “You just gotta do it over and over, you keep saying the same things over and over and you hope that it sinks in and try and find a different way to present that.”
In facing a relentless high energy opponent, limiting “emotional,” retaliatory penalties and turnovers while staying in a good spot to attack following inevitable giveaways were among the main attributes Cole is looking to see his team focus on during this weekend’s series.
“It’s a little bit like playing snooker," Cole said of the post-turnover recoveries that will be vital to the team’s success. "It’s what you leave, not what you make.”
Cole didn’t announce a starting goaltender for Friday but said they’ll continue to split goaltending duties this weekend between sophomore goalie Pierce Charleson and senior goalie Drew DeRidder. He dispelled any notion that he’d name either one as the clear-cut starter anytime soon, citing the possibilities of further growth and elevated play due to competition between the two.
“You can develop two goalies at the same time in college hockey,” he said. “There’s enough games, there’s enough time and these guys compete enough.”
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. at Munn Arena on Friday and Saturday. Both games will be broadcast on BTN+.
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