Big Ten action returns to East Lansing this weekend as the Michigan State Spartans look to conclude their season series with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Coming off of a dominant performance against Penn State last weekend, the Buckeyes roll into East Lansing with 13 points and a 4-5-1 conference record.
The Spartans are coming off of a somewhat disappointing weekend series against No. 1 Minnesota. Although the Spartans picked up a win in a shootout and held the Gophers to only three goals total last weekend, they were only able to pick up two points against the nation’s top-ranked team. The Spartans currently sit fifth in the conference with 12 points and a 2-5-3-3 conference record.
With the Big Ten season already halfway done, it is go-time for the Spartans and it all starts this weekend. Ohio State is rolling and has potential to force itself into the middle of the standings and leave the Spartans in the dust. The Spartans look to pick up a desperately needed six points and put themselves back into the top half of the Big Ten conference.
The task will not be easy, as OSU boasts a prolific offense with the second-highest goals-for total in the Big Ten with 31 goals. The Buckeyes are led by freshman goaltender and Big Ten Player of the Week, Christian Frey, along with forward Ryan Dzingel.
The one silver lining for the Spartans, which will be key to this matchup, is their defense. It has the third-lowest goals against total in the Big Ten and seems to be getting better with every game. The key to the Spartan defense has been the fact that the Spartans have devoted themselves to giving up their bodies to block shots, which has been critical throughout the season. Goaltender Jake Hildebrand has continued to play at an exceptional level, which will be key if the Spartans want to remain competitive.
A big six points are on the line for both teams. This series will be a close one as the Spartans try to take advantage of a Buckeye team that has not had a lot of success on the road (2-6-0). In the end, it may come down to whether the defense can keep OSU’s offense in check and whether MSU’s offense can finish.
The puck drops at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night and at 4:00 pm on Saturday.
Jason Ruff is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports