Following a sweep and its first Big Ten win over Wisconsin last weekend, Michigan State hockey (6-3-1, 2-1-1) remains home to face No. 10 Ohio State (7-2-1, 3-1-0) on Thursday and Friday. This series with the Buckeyes will be one of the biggest tests for the Spartans so far this season and of first-year Head Coach Adam Nightingale’s career behind the bench.
Two Spartans, graduate transfer goaltender Dylan St. Cyr and senior forward Erik Middendorf received Big Ten honors this week after their performances against the Badgers. St. Cyr was named first star of the week for his 88 saves while only allowing one goal on the weekend. At the same time, Middendorf was named the third star of the week for scoring four goals in Friday night’s game.
“We feel super fortunate to be able to play in the Big Ten, really good conference, not easy getting wins, let alone a sweep,” Nightingale said. “I really liked the way we started the weekend, and it was a good team effort.”
Despite the team’s 10-1 performance against the Badgers, Nightingale said he wants to see his team improve on “playing with a lead” moving forward, as MSU lost momentum at times throughout the series.
“We want our guys to try to make plays and we want to play with the puck,” Nightingale said. “When you don't play efficient hockey, you get tired and then you make poor decisions, you take bad penalties, and then you're killing penalties and you got guys on the bench that aren't killing … So, I think playing more efficient hockey is really critical.”
Looking to the Buckeyes
Ohio State sits at second in the Big Ten behind Penn State. The Buckeyes are coming off a split series with No. 1 Minnesota where they recorded a 6-4 victory and 2-4 loss.
“This is probably the toughest team we've played this year,” Nightingale said. “They're an older team, they're well coached, they have a really good goalie, they've got some guys in the portal that impacted their roster. … We got to make sure that when we play, it's about us and we got to get to our game early and often this weekend.”
OSU’s sophomore goaltender Jakub Dobeš has played in all ten games for the Buckeyes so far putting up a .917 save percentage and a 2.25 GAA. Meanwhile, St. Cyr has recorded a save percentage of .938 and a 1.89 GAA.
Senior forward Kamil Sadlocha leads Ohio State with five goals, while freshman forward Stephen Halliday leads the team in assists with seven.
The Buckeyes are 36-369 in goal-shot attempts for a .098 shot percentage. The Spartans are currently 31-359 for a shot percentage of .086. As for power plays, Ohio State is 9-43 with a .209 conversion rate to MSU’s 8-40 and .200.
The last meetings between these two teams took place in East Lansing in January, during which Ohio State swept MSU 4-1 and 3-2. Prior to that, the pair played in Columbus last October with MSU winning the first game 2-1 and OSU taking the second 5-1.
The Spartans are aware they’re facing a statistically better team than Wisconsin this weekend, but they’re focused on themselves and sticking to their game.
“Obviously we had a pretty good weekend last weekend, but this is a whole different opponent," freshman forward Tiernan Shoudy said. "They’re going to be a lot better, so we just gotta to stay on top of our game and play, make sure we play our way and we don’t get too complacent because we won a few games here."
The Buckeyes are an all-too familiar opponent for fifth-year defenseman Cole Krygier, who has recorded multiple assists against Ohio State since coming to MSU. As a veteran, Krygier said he has a better understanding of his competition this time around.
“They just have really skilled forwards," Krygier said. "I think their (defense), they move the puck well and they capitalize on their chances. If we can keep them off the board for the first two periods of Friday night – flatten them a little bit – I think that’ll be good for us.”
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