Tuesday, April 23, 2024

MSU men's hockey prepares to take action against University of Michigan in Big Ten championship game

March 22, 2024
<p>Sophomore forward Karsen Dorwart (28) carrying the puck forward during a game against Ohio State University at Munn Ice Arena on Mar. 16, 2024.</p>

Sophomore forward Karsen Dorwart (28) carrying the puck forward during a game against Ohio State University at Munn Ice Arena on Mar. 16, 2024.

Photo by Donté Smith | The State News

Hot off a win against the Ohio State Buckeyes to advance to the Big Ten championship game, the Michigan State Spartans step into unknown territory as they look for their first Big Ten Men's Hockey Tournament title in program history. Not only that, but the Spartans have the chance to do so against their in-state rival, the University of Michigan Wolverines.

The Spartans had a thrilling season against the Wolverines: they dropped one game total against their in-state rivals with a 7-1 loss at Munn, then beat them on their home ice for the first time since 2019, swept them just a few weeks later and then went on to win the Duel in the D for the first time in the Little Caesars Arena era. The mindset the Spartans have had this season continues as they look for another monumental win.

Sophomore forward Karsen Dorwart said that this entire week has been really exciting and "everyone is super pumped, "super-positive" and "wants to get to the weekend already."

The mindset for this upcoming game is the same that they've had this entire season: take it one game at a time and don't look too far ahead of what is to come.

Both Nightingale and the rest of the Spartans acknowledged that emotions were something that actively took over during the first series against Michigan at Munn, a factor that led them to their loss. And the Spartans know that this time around, being able to control their emotions will again be a major aspect of the team's performance.

“I think we've seen it by the way we've played after that, and I think we've done a better job as a group of controlling our emotions, and it's an emotional game. You gotta get right to the line,” head coach Adam Nightingale said. “But you know, we're not a very good hockey team if we lose control of our emotions, and I think we showed that in that game (against Michigan).”

Michigan State now knows what to expect from the Munn crowd as last game's atmosphere completely changed the game. “Go Green, Go White” chants had started before the puck had even dropped and ears were ringing as the Spartans completed the win over the Buckeyes. The same energy, if brought, will help propel the Spartans against the Wolverines.

“The atmosphere last week was nothing like we've ever seen," sophomore defenseman Matt Basgall said "The coaches were talking about it, even when they were here and playing, they hadn't seen anything like it. I think the fans are really going to play to our advantage. Something you really look forward to going into a game like that is seeing the excitement from the fans and how they can contribute to us playing well is going to be a great opportunity.”

Scouting out the Wolverines

Michigan has had a series of ups and downs through its season but have recently made a climb to fit themselves nicely into the Big Ten Championship game.

For the third consecutive year, the Wolverines defeated the Golden Gophers at Mariucci Arena. They completed their task to win the Big Ten Tournament in Minnesota last season and then beat them just this month in the Big Ten semifinals game to move on and head to Munn Ice Arena for the championship game. 

To begin this season's tournament, Michigan played Notre Dame at Yost Ice Arena for a home ice advantage and swept the Fighting Irish on Friday and Saturday. Advancing to the next round, the Wolverines then traveled to Minnesota for a successful one game tilt. 

Michigan's overall record was 21-13-3 and held a conference record of 11-11-2. The team had two sweeps in the Big Ten conference, over Notre Dame and Ohio State late in the season, but struggled finishing weekend series, usually dropping one night and dominating the other.

The championship game will start on Saturday, March 22 at 8 p.m. and will be played at Munn Ice Arena, as both teams hunt to be crowned Big Ten Tournament champions. The game will be streamed on Big Ten Network.

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