Weekend Hockey Preview: MSU vs. Penn State

On what may be one of the more critical weekends of this Big Ten hockey season, Michigan State (6-10-3) will host Penn State (4-12-1) for two matchups on Friday, Dec. 17 and Saturday, Dec. 18 at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans are coming off of a disappointing weekend in Columbus, Ohio. They went 0-1-1 against the Ohio State Buckeyes, gaining only two points out of a possible six.

Coach Tom Anastos was disappointed at his team’s performance last Friday saying his team’s “compete level” was “inconsistent” for most of the game. However, he did acknowledge his team’s performance on Sunday, saying that the Spartans “played a much better game.”

For Anastos and the Spartan hockey team, finishing is the key.

“Our ability (or lack thereof) to finish is something that hurts us for sure,” Anastos said.

The Spartans have struggled this season both at closing out games and capitalizing on scoring opportunities. It is something that they will have to work on going into this weekend’s contest.

Penn State is coming off of two losses to No. 1 Minnesota and are keen on picking up their first points of the Big Ten season. MSU is currently fifth in the conference with four points. Overall, MSU has scored more goals and are better at the shootout than Penn State, which may be a factor if these games go into extra time. However, the Nittany Lions have the edge on the power play (.200 percent) in comparison to MSU (.140 percent) whose special teams have been their Achilles’ heel all season long.

This series should be a great opportunity for the Spartans to pick up six points going into a Michigan (10-6-2) series next weekend. Don’t expect Penn State to roll over. They are poised to pick up their first points and they see the Spartans as their best opportunity.

The Spartans return home for the first time in 2014 and Munn Ice Arena should be packed to see this Big Ten clash. Both of these teams are desperate for their first conference win and it should make for an exciting weekend.

Both games begin at 6:30 p.m. EST at Munn Ice Arena.

Jason Ruff is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: Michigan State Athletics