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Preview: Preparations for rivalry weekend in full swing as MSU hockey prepares to take on Michigan

January 18, 2024
<p>Michigan State men's hockey's third line celebrates a goal scored by Joey Larson (18) at Munn Ice Arena on Nov. 17, 2023.</p>

Michigan State men's hockey's third line celebrates a goal scored by Joey Larson (18) at Munn Ice Arena on Nov. 17, 2023.

Photo by Brad LaPlante | The State News

The time has finally come. The weekend all MSU hockey fans have been impatiently waiting for: the infamous rival weekend where the Michigan State Spartans are playing the University of Michigan Wolverines for an intense and highly anticipated weekend.

After a skillful weekend at Penn State where the Spartans shut out the Nittany Lions on night one with a 5-0 score and dominantly won the second night 7-3, the Spartans are fully prepared to host the Wolverines this Friday and then take on the crowd at Yost Ice Arena on Saturday.

“It’s such a great rivalry, and one I feel so fortunate to be a part of,” head coach Adam Nightingale said. “And I know our guys do too (feel fortunate). Obviously we respect our opponent and respect everyone we play and we’ve got to keep the focus on ourselves and make sure that we’re playing our best this weekend.”

For the veteran players on the team, some are playing the Wolverines for their fifth year in a row, including fifth-year forward Nicolas Müller. After Michigan's successful years in the past, the Spartans now know what it takes to sweep them and are excited for the upcoming weekend.

But for the younger players on the team including sophomore forward Karsen Dorwart, who is also an out of state kid who has not had much experience with the intense rivalry, his second year playing the team could be a turn around from previous years of playing the Wolverines.

“I didn’t watch (the rival games),” Dorwart said. “So it was kind of crazy when I first got here, just the hatred everyone has is pretty real. I kind of had to adopt that a little bit but it’s been a lot of fun to be a part of.”

The team is now beginning their second Big Ten game of the second half of the season, and heading into this series, the team is focusing on penalty kills. The Wolverines are notoriously known for their great ability on the power play and are ranked No. 1 nationally for their highly talented man advantage

“Every weekend you’re going to our conference, and there are certain penalties you’re okay with, and it’s the ones maybe in the offensive zone when you’re reaching in and maybe not moving your feet,” Nightingale said. “Like we do each week, we work on our penalty kill and focus on different areas.”

As well as having a star of the week for the Spartans, which was freshman defenseman Artyom Levshunov, who produced 5 points this weekend (a goal and four assists), another highly producing line is the “third” line consisting of junior forward Red Savage, freshman forward Gavin O’Connell and sophomore forward Joey Larson, whose dedicated line produced 10 points for the weekend sweep of Penn State.

“I never looked at them like a third line, and I think we’ve got a ton of depth,” Nightingale said. “That’s cool to see, and just like the rest of our lines, all our guys enjoy being on their line. I think they’ve been a great line for us and I expect that from them down the stretch.”

With the confidence gained coming off a strong weekend, the team is more than ready to go in for a strong win and to play their whole 60 minutes to lead them to victory.

The Wolverines are coming off of a strong weekend after an out of conference weekend against Stonehill where the team swept their opponents with scores of 12-4 and 7-1. The last conference game the Wolverines played was in the first weekend of December when they split against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend. They are currently 3-5-2 in conference and are sitting in fifth place behind Notre Dame, and they are 10-7-3 overall and are No. 15 nationally.

The Spartans and Wolverines are set for puck drop at 7 p.m. on Friday night at Munn Ice Arena and the Green and White head down to Ann Arbor for another 7 p.m. start time at Yost to round out the series and hope to grab a sweep. Both games will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.

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