With Sadlocha’s return possible, No. 14 Spartans focused on moving forward at No. 12 Ohio State


MSU forward Jagger Joshua/Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Jacob Stinson, Hockey Beat Reporter

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Throughout the season, Michigan State coach Adam Nightingale has repeatedly praised his team’s camaraderie. 

“I think the want to be a team has been really good,” Nightingale said. “That makes it really fun for our coaching staff and the players to want to come to the rink. We’ve got a group of guys that want to be a team.”

Sometimes, however, the strength of that team gets tested by forces both on and off the ice. For example, when the Spartans hosted Ohio State in November, Buckeyes forward Kamil Sadlocha was ejected and given a game misconduct for using a racial slur against MSU’s Jagger Joshua, who is Black. When no further action had been taken by either the Big Ten or OSU, Joshua issued a public statement on Twitter detailing the situation.

“The inaction has left me feeling confused and pessimistic about the movement of diversity within hockey culture,” Joshua said in his statement. “The ignorance of racism does not belong in our game, and I feel that I need to make people aware that this incident occurred, because without acknowledgement, the problem gets worse.”

After Joshua’s statement garnered national attention, and both the Big Ten and OSU gave a series of statements, Sadlocha was dismissed from the team and sent home and has not appeared in a game since late November.

This weekend, however, the Spartans head to Columbus for a road series against the Buckeyes, and there’s a chance they could see Sadlocha.

An Ohio State spokesperson confirmed to WDBM this week that Sadlocha is back with the team, although they did not comment whether he would be available to play this weekend. 

Nightingale hopes that everyone involved can use the incident as a learning experience, allowing both teams to focus on the game in front of them.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” he said, “and I don’t think it should be the end of anyone, you know, and I have faith in Ohio State and their ability to help people change…It’s about moving on, and so I trust that they’ve gone through a process where they feel he’s ready to be back on the team.”

Nightingale said that Joshua shares a similar feeling and is focused on the two games in front of him.

“Jagger’s whole deal with it wasn’t about any one person or any one team. It was about the principle of how you speak to others, and I don’t think he was looking to go after anyone or anything like that. So I think he’s moved on. He’s done a great job of putting his head down and working and I’m proud of him for that,” said Nightingale.

The concept of moving on was a theme in Nightingale’s press conference Tuesday, both off and on the ice. After two losses in the Great Lakes Invitational, the Spartans finished December with a 1-5-0 record. The Spartans will need to have a short memory heading into the back half of conference play.

That’s not to say the last month was all bad, however. Even in the losses, the Spartans repeatedly put themselves in a position to win. Despite losing 4-2, they outshot Ferris State 47-22 in the GLI opener. 

“I really liked us in the Ferris State game,” Nightingale said. “I think if we play that way, we’re going to win a lot of hockey games.”

Then in the consolation game against Michigan Tech,  Michigan State held the lead late before a pair of power-play goals — one with 1:13 left in regulation and one in overtime — let the Huskies complete the comeback.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win,” Nightingale said. “I think they’re a really good team, you know, they’re a top 20 team for a reason. Obviously we got in some penalty trouble at the end and weren’t able to kill it off, but it’s about responding.”

The response Nightingale is looking for will depend largely on how well his team can get pucks to the inside and get high-quality shots on Ohio State goalie Jakub Dobeš. A reigning Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year, Dobeš has proven he’s capable of stealing games for his team. He’s started to find a rhythm, too, posting a .931 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average over his last four starts.

However, the Spartans have proven they can solve the puzzle that is Dobeš. They scored four goals in each of their November wins against the Buckeyes, led by four points from senior Nicolas Müller.

Michigan State will need an equally strong showing on offense to break out of its current slump. The Spartans converted on only 5.1% of their shots on goal in December, well below their 9.0% season average. Here’s the breakdown of the totals in those games:

Despite the cold shooting streak and recent lack of wins, Michigan State is still focused on long-term improvements.

Created by Jacob Stinson

“As the season goes, we want to keep building our game out and get better every game,” Nightingale said. “The reality is it’s not always a straight path. Sometimes you take a step back. But I think that builds resolve in our group. You still got to believe in what we’re doing and keep doing things the right way.”

The series between Ohio State and Michigan State will begin on Friday, Jan. 6, at 7 p.m. EST from the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. The rematch will be the following afternoon at 4 p.m.


Players to watch

Cole Krygier, D, Michigan State: Krygier has impressed all season and that continued in the GLI. He has three goals in his last four games — including two against Ferris State — which ties him for the team lead this season with seven. He’s made his mark this year inserting himself into the offense and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.

Mason Lohrei, D, Ohio State: Lohrei is a great example of how Ohio State likes to use its defensemen. The Buckeyes don’t place much emphasis on blocking shots — they average the least blocks per game in the conference (9.6). Instead, they like their defensemen to quickly get the puck and push in transition. Lohrei is one of the most consistent examples of this and he has 15 assists on the year to prove it. It will be important for Ohio State to get in transition quickly and not get trapped in the defensive zone, so pay attention to Lohrei, the team’s best puck mover, to make that happen.

Cam Thiesing, F, Ohio State: Thiesing is the polar opposite of Lohrei. He attempts more shots than any of his teammates, and isn’t a strong playmaker but he makes up for it with his scoring. He has nine goals this year despite only two assists. He hasn’t assisted on a goal since Oct. 21, so look for Thiesing to keep throwing pucks on net. 


Impact staff predictions

Stinson: Both teams split. Michigan State has been piling on enough shots recently to win most games it plays. I like that matched up against an Ohio State defense that doesn’t block much. However, beating a team four times in a season is extremely difficult, and I think that the Buckeyes come out with at least one win at home. 

Jacob Phillips, Hockey Beat Reporter: Most likely, this will be a split. Sadlocha news aside, both teams have a lot to play for. MSU’s performance in the GLI was far from the best we’ve seen in the first half of the season, but they’ve bounced back from worse games before. Look for them to take at least one game in Columbus.

Ryan Radosevich, Hockey Beat Reporter: Split. This is going to be an…interesting series. MSU is coming off a disappointing GLI, but the Buckeyes haven’t played a game since Dec. 17. Look for the Spartans to be hungry to get back into the win column, but since it’s at OSU’s barn I see this ending up as a series split.