Michigan State (4-5-1) is pushing pause on Big Ten play with a home-and-away series against Ferris State. Thursday’s game is in East Lansing and Saturday’s is in Big Rapids, Michigan.
Last weekend, MSU was swept by the rival Michigan Wolverines. Friday night turned into a blowout in the third period, with the Wolverines surging to a 7-2 victory.
The second game was a significantly closer affair. After jumping off to a 3-0 lead in the first period, Michigan battled down the stretch to keep Michigan State from clawing its way back into the game. A goal in the second and a goal in the third brought the Spartans within one, but they could not seem to find that game-tying goal.
“We started to see maybe a little bit of what kind of team we think we have here,” hockey Head Coach Danton Cole said after Saturday night’s loss. “Defensemen were moving the puck real well, forwards were jumping through holes and getting pucks up and behind and forechecking, getting some things done in the offensive zone. There were a lot of positives and we’ve got to build on that.”
Ferris State is a dangerous team. After a 2020-21 season where they managed only one win in 25 games, they are off to a solid 4-6 start. Last weekend, the Bulldogs hosted a two-game series with Minnesota State — at the time, the No. 2 team in the country. Ferris pulled off the upset Friday night, skating away with a 2-1 win. They went on to lose 5-1 Saturday.
“Their teams always work hard,” Cole said. “They defend well and they make you earn everything.”
Ferris State is a familiar non-conference opponent for Michigan State, whether it be in the Great Lakes Invitational or past home-and-away series. Michigan State has won four out of the last five against the Bulldogs.
Junior forward Liam Macdougall and sophomore forward Dallas Tulik are the Bulldogs point leaders, with nine apiece. Freshman forward Bradley Marek leads the team in goal-scoring, with five goals in ten games.
Ferris State is an extremely well-coached team that likes to take advantage of opposing mistakes. They are second in the nation in shorthanded goals with three, proving just how costly turnovers and other errors can be against the Bulldogs. The Spartans will have to earn every inch of the ice against Ferris, while also keeping mistakes to a minimum.
FSU's home ice, Ewigleben Sports Arena, is an especially tough atmosphere.
“They're real tough there,” Cole said. “It's a different type of rink. It's a little smaller and the ceiling is right on top of you — the game tends to be a little bit different.”
As always, the special teams battle will be essential. Ferris State struggled on both the power play and the penalty kill against Minnesota State; they notched just one goal on the man advantage and gave up three on the power play. Michigan State also had trouble in its previous series, failing to nab a single power play goal against Michigan and giving up three; although the penalty kill clamped down for the final two periods against Michigan Saturday night.
Consistency will also be key for Michigan State. Despite outplaying and outscoring Michigan through the final two periods of Saturday’s game, the team was unable to overcome the three-goal deficit from a rough first period.
“That’s how hard you have to play,” Cole said. “You have to play that way for 60 or 65,” Cole said of Michigan State’s comeback attempt.
The series kicks off Thursday night at Munn Ice Arena and puck drop is set for 7 p.m.
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