Tuesday, April 23, 2024

MSU hockey gets automatic bid into NCAA Championships, will play Western Michigan in first round

March 25, 2024
<p>Freshman forward Gavin O'Connell (29) chasing after the puck during a game against University of Michigan at Munn Ice Arena on March 23, 2024.</p>

Freshman forward Gavin O'Connell (29) chasing after the puck during a game against University of Michigan at Munn Ice Arena on March 23, 2024.

Photo by Donté Smith | The State News

For the first time since 2012, the Michigan State men's hockey team is headed back to the NCAA Championships, more commonly known as the Frozen Four, after a season-clinching Big Ten regular season title and a thrilling overtime Big Ten Tournament title.

After the 5-4 victory against Michigan State's in-state rival, the University of Michigan, to round out the conference playoffs, the Spartans earned an automatic bid into the tournament as the overall No. 4 seed and the No. 1 seed in its region.

When asked about the reactions in the room between coaches and players, both head coach Adam Nightingale and senior defenseman Nash Nienhuis started by saying one word: "excited."

"Excited, I mean obviously a ton of respect, just first off to get in," Nightingale said. "It’s hard to get into the tournament and you look at the parity in college hockey. (A) ton of respect for Western Michigan, I know Pat Ferschweiler well, we worked together in Detroit. I think he’s a heck of a coach, and done a heck of a job."

This will be Michigan State's 28th NCAA Championships appearance, riding on three former national championships in 1966, 1986 and its most recent in 2007.

The Spartans and Broncos were former heated rivals in the CCHA conference, and MSU takes a dominant 65-35-9 record over them all-time. The last time the two teams dueled it out was in December 2021 during the Great Lakes Invitational, where Western Michigan took a dominating 3-1 win at Munn Ice Arena over Michigan State. Going into this game, Nienhuis said that the team plans to just focus on this one game and "be ready when the time comes" to play Western Michigan.

The team will play on Friday, March 29 in Maryland Heights, Missouri at Centene Community Ice Center at 5:30 p.m. against the Western Michigan Broncos. The game will be streamed on ESPNU.

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