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Preview: MSU hockey looks to break six-game losing streak against No. 6 Michigan

December 9, 2022
<p>Freshman right-wing Tanner Kelly (26) attempts to score. MSU&#x27;s hockey season came to an end after a 8-0 loss to the University of Michigan in the Big Ten Men&#x27;s Hockey Tournament at Yost Ice Arena on March 05, 2022.</p>

Freshman right-wing Tanner Kelly (26) attempts to score. MSU's hockey season came to an end after a 8-0 loss to the University of Michigan in the Big Ten Men's Hockey Tournament at Yost Ice Arena on March 05, 2022.

Photo by Sheldon Krause | The State News

No. 12 Michigan State hockey (11-6-1, 5-4-1 Big Ten) is searching for redemption in a home-and-home series with No. 6 Michigan (11-6-1, 3-5 Big Ten) Friday and Saturday after getting swept by No. 3 Minnesota last weekend. 

This series marks games 339 and 340 of one of college hockey’s longest and greatest rivalries

The Spartans look to snap their six-game losing streak with the Wolverines, dating back to the 2020-21 season. 

Graduate defenseman Christian Krygier was a junior on the roster the last time MSU defeated Michigan. Krygier returned to the lineup last weekend after missing nine games due to injury.

“They’ve definitely had the better hand for the last couple years,” Krygier said Monday. “They’ve obviously had really good teams and they’ve had success. … But I definitely think it’s a new year, new series and both teams have new coaches, so I think we’re gonna see a different kind of game.”

MSU learned it still has some work to do after falling to Minnesota 5-0 and 6-3 in its last series.

Following the sweep, Michigan State Head Coach Adam Nightingale said Monday the main focus for his players is to “keep growing as a team.”

“Obviously not the results we wanted this weekend,” Nightingale said Monday. “We knew we were playing a really good team, and I think those are opportunities for a lot of growth in our group. We saw some things we need to be better at. I liked that we kept playing throughout the weekend.”

Scouting the Wolverines

Michigan is coming off a series split at Wisconsin – a team MSU swept in early November – picking up a 6-3 loss and 4-2 victory. 

The Wolverines are 2-4-1 in their last seven games with wins over the Badgers and No. 9 Harvard. Prior wins include No. 9 Boston University, No. 18 Notre Dame and No. 13 Penn State.

Like Nightingale, Brandon Naurato is in his first year as Michigan’s hockey head coach after former coach Mel Pearson was let go after five seasons. Both Nightingale and Naurato are hockey alumni of their respective teams. 

It’s no secret top ten Michigan will be a challenge for the Spartans as its roster is loaded with NHL draft picks and prospects.

“They have a lot of talent, a lot of speed and play with a lot of skill – a really good team,” Nightingale said.

MSU might catch a bit of a break as the Wolverine’s leading scorer, freshman center Adam Fantilli, will miss the series after he was named to Canada’s National Junior Team Selection Camp. Fantilli has notched 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points so far this season.

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Looking at the stats, MSU averages 3.39 goals to Michigan’s 4.06. The Spartans surrender 2.67 goals per game (fourth in Big Ten) while the Wolverines allow 3.11 (seventh in Big Ten).

On the power play, Michigan comes in first in the conference and seventh overall at .267 (20-75). MSU trails with .210 (13-62), third in the Big Ten.  

With Fantilli out, the next leading scorers for the Wolverines are forwards Mackie Samoskevich and Rutger McGroarty with 21 and 18 points on the season. 

As for goaltending, Michigan’s Erik Portillo has 405 saves, a GAA of 2.94 and .902 save percentage. Meanwhile, MSU's graduate goaltender Dylan St. Cyr holds a 2.53 GAA and 522 saves. St. Cyr ranks second in the conference and 15th nationally with a .924 save percentage. 

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Friday’s game will take place at Munn Ice Arena, while Saturday’s will be at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Puck drop is set for 6:30 p.m. both nights and fans can catch the action on the Big Ten Network. 

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