Thursday, December 2, 2021

Weekend recap: Michigan State hockey splits first Big Ten series in Columbus

November 1, 2021
<p>DeRidder points at freshman defender Nash Nienhuis (4), who seconds before had slammed his head into the wall and skated off in pain. The Badgers shut out the Spartans 4-0 at Munn Ice Arena on March 5, 2021. </p>

DeRidder points at freshman defender Nash Nienhuis (4), who seconds before had slammed his head into the wall and skated off in pain. The Badgers shut out the Spartans 4-0 at Munn Ice Arena on March 5, 2021.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

Michigan State faced its first Big Ten opponent of the 2021-22 season last weekend, heading to Columbus to face off against Ohio State. The Spartans split the road series, securing a 2-1 victory Friday night and losing 5-1 Saturday afternoon.

In Friday night's victory, the ice certainly seemed to be tilted towards the Buckeyes. Ohio State outshot Michigan State 42-17, hounding MSU's offense and applying plenty of pressure in the offensive zone. However, senior goalkeeper Drew DeRidder was a force to be reckoned with between the pipes, allowing just one goal on the night.

The Spartans struck first, converting on a power play just over six minutes into the first. Junior forward Erik Middendorf snuck a slick pass across the front of the net to junior forward Josh Nodler, who ripped a one-timer to the top-right of the net. The Buckeyes responded with a goal of their own ten minutes later, cashing in on a power play opportunity to knot up the game 1-1.

Ohio State kept piling up shots and opportunities in the second period, but DeRidder and Michigan State's defenders kept the game tied up. With just over five minutes left in the period, a roughing call on the Buckeyes and an interference call on the Spartans sent a player to the box for each squad, resulting in two minutes of four-on-four hockey. Halfway through the dueling penalties, Nodler slipped a breakaway pass through in the neutral zone to Middendorf, who blitzed towards the net and flipped a backhander past the goaltender — 2-1 Michigan State.

Middendorf's goal wound up being the game winner. Michigan State's penalty kill put the clamps down for the third period, shutting down two Ohio State power play chances and retaining the one goal lead.

In MSU's non conference play, Michigan State hockey Head Coach Danton Cole stuck to a two-goalie system, swapping between DeRidder and sophomore goalkeeper Pierce Charleson every series. Cole decided to change things up and ride the hot hand Saturday afternoon, sticking with DeRidder after his 41-save game the night before.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, DeRidder was unable to replicate that performance in game two.

The first two periods were closely contested. Just like Friday night, the teams traded goals through the first 20 minutes and went to the locker room with a 1-1 tie. This time, it was Ohio State that scored first, as sophomore forward Patrick Guzzo stripped the puck from sophomore forward Jeremy Davidson and scored shorthanded. Nodler scored his second goal of the series for Michigan State to tie the game back up, rocketing a one-timer above the goaltender on the power play.

Nodler's goal would be the last of the afternoon for MSU. OSU grabbed ahold of the lead with less than four minutes left in the second period and never let go. They piled on top of the lead in the third, scoring three consecutive goals and running Michigan State off of the ice with a 5-1 victory.

Michigan State was outshot 76-37 through the two-game series, but they return to East Lansing with an even 1-1 record in Big Ten play. Goaltending and special teams continue to keep the Spartans competitive. DeRidder almost single-handedly ensured a victory for Michigan State on Friday and MSU's two out of three goals in the series came in the man advantage.

As the dust settles from the first few weeks of the college hockey season, Michigan State finds itself right in the middle of the Big Ten standings at fourth.

Things do not get easier for Michigan State in conference play. The Spartans face off against their rival Michigan Wolverines in a home-and-away series this weekend. With multiple first round NHL picks and one of the deepest lineups in NCAA hockey, Michigan may be MSU's toughest test of the season. The puck is set to drop at 7:30 p.m. in Ann Arbor Friday night.

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