Sunday, February 25, 2024

Positives from Michigan State hockey's 8-game losing streak

February 7, 2022
<p>Sophomore forward Nicolas Müller (19) attempted to gain possession of the puck to score on Minnesota. The Spartans fell to the Golden Gophers, 3-1, on Dec. 3, 2020.</p>

Sophomore forward Nicolas Müller (19) attempted to gain possession of the puck to score on Minnesota. The Spartans fell to the Golden Gophers, 3-1, on Dec. 3, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

The hope coming into this weekend was the bye week could shake off the cobwebs that have laced together Michigan State’s six-game losing streak.

By no means were the Spartans severely outmatched in either game with both games tied heading into the final period. But poor third-period play Friday and Saturday night led to MSU dropping both contests, falling to 11-16-1 and extending the losing streak to eight.

Here are three takeaways from Michigan State’s unsuccessful trip to Minneapolis:

Davidson-Tucker-Middendorf continue to skate well

While Michigan State has navigated its maddening campaign without a win in 2022, the emergence of sophomore Jeremy Davidson, freshman Jesse Tucker and junior Erik Middendorf’s line has been a pleasant development. All three are new faces to East Lansing, but they already appear to have the best and most consistent chemistry on the team.

This weekend was no different. And it didn’t take long to make an impact. Already ahead with an early one-goal lead on Friday night, the Davidson-Tucker-Middendorf line struck in the first period to give MSU a two-goal lead that it held for nearly the first 30 minutes of play.

The play started with a defensive victory in the Michigan State zone that forced the puck up the ice. Tucker jousted the puck away from a Minnesota defender and quickly found Middendorf streaking across the ice. Davidson continued his route toward the right post and guided a pass from Middendorf into the net to complete the short two-on-one.

Then on Saturday night, Middendorf and Davidson won on the forecheck and a quick flip to Tucker in the slot provided the equalizer in the second period.

Plays like that epitomize the chemistry of well-constructed lines. Sensing your linemates' location and the ability to string together multiple tape-to-tape, in-stride passes has been absent all too often for the Spartans. It can be painful at times to watch MSU try to win clean zone entries against sound defensive teams.

But this most consistent line is something for Michigan State to build upon, especially as the season continues to spiral. Even though the trio went -2 on Friday night, they led the team in shots on net with six of the 23. They followed it up Saturday night with eight tests on Minnesota junior goaltender Justen Close. Tucker now leads the team in points with 19, followed by Davidson at 18 and Middendorf in fourth place at 15.

Pierce Charleson vs. Minnesota is becoming a thing

Sophomore goaltender Pierce Charleson has only started nine games this season compared to senior Drew DeRidder’s 19. Despite adequate rest, Charleson got his first start in net since Jan. 15. To some, it may have been a surprise.

Or was it?

The start was Charleson’s third career start versus the Golden Gophers, and he has been brilliant in all three. His first came in the opening round of the 2021 Big Ten Tournament when Michigan State Head Coach Danton Cole rode with the hot hand over DeRidder. Charleson stood on his head for 55 minutes making 48 saves and was minutes away from posting a shutout and giving Michigan State its first-ever win in the Big Ten Tournament.

Then on Jan. 8, he got the start over DeRidder. The scoresheet shows six goals against Charleson, but two of them were deflected off MSU skaters. He also made an astonishing 54 saves that night and kept Michigan State in a 3-3 game late in the second period.

Friday night was another encouraging outing between the pipes for Charleson, making 31 stops while allowing four goals. The numbers don’t do justice to his performance, but he carried them through the first half of the game and allowed Michigan State to stay competitive.

At this point, it feels like Charleson is becoming a constant victim of unlucky plays. Whether it is an own-goal or poor play in front of him, he always ends up on the short end of the stick. The talent is there. He’s the goalie of the future for the program and with a little bit more luck, he could do wonders for the Spartans.

Does Christian Krygier read The State News?

Last week I mentioned senior defenseman Christian Krygier as a player to watch for the next month.

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Perhaps he reads The State News or at least saw his sweater as the article’s headline photo on Twitter. He didn’t take long to make a positive impact on this weekend’s series, giving Michigan State an early lead Friday night all on his own.

I don’t think that was what many were expecting from an MSU defenseman, let alone Krygier, but you have to give credit where credit is due. Krygier showed some surprising speed and a strong backhand move to beat Close.

The goal was just the third of Krygier’s collegiate career and second of the season, but one like that is worth saving. Or converting into an NFT, however that works.

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