Big Ten hockey returns to East Lansing with a crucial series between the Michigan State Spartans and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
With Ohio State and Michigan State grappling for that third place spot, this series could have major implications on the Big Ten race, currently dominated by Penn State and Michigan.
The Race is On
Big Ten Standings
1st: Penn State 16 pts
2nd: Michigan 15 pts
3rd: Minnesota 8 pts
4th: Michigan State 7 pts
5th: Ohio State 6 pts
6th: Wisconsin 2 pts
Michigan State currently holds on to fourth place in the Big Ten by their fingernails with Ohio State close behind. However Minnesota only holds third place by one point. With both Minnesota and Penn State idle in conference this weekend this is an excellent opportunity for both teams to grab hold of third place and put themselves in the regular season title race should they pick up 5-6 points on the weekend.
Know Thy Enemy and Know Thyself
The Buckeyes come into this weekend’s series angry and motivated. After dropping a 10-6 contest to the Wolverines in front of over 8,000 fans, Ohio State is looking for some sort of redemption, and this weekend’s series against MSU could be it.
For Michigan State, it is all about staying hungry and not being satisfied because there is nothing to be satisfied with. The Spartans had one of their worst performances of the season in Happy Valley coming off of a 5-2 beat down, Michigan State is four games under .500 and are dangerously close to being left behind in the Big Ten race. Thankfully fate has smiled on Michigan State, offering a chance to redeem themselves this weekend at Munn. The Spartans cannot pass up this opportunity.
By the Numbers
Despite the identical overall record (7-11-2 for both teams) the Buckeyes have had a bit more offensive prowess than the Spartans. OSU averages 2.9 goals per game while the Spartans average 2.25 (their highest GPG average after 20 games since 2012). However, the Buckeyes allow an average of 3.55 goals per game while Jake Hildebrand and MSU only allow 2.65.
The Buckeyes PK could be a weakness, as it is only operating at 76%. If Michigan State can exploit this weakness, get three or four goals a night and stay hungry all weekend, then they have a strong chance to earn their first sweep of the season.
Friday night’s game against Ohio State marks the 800th game at Munn Ice Arena and to celebrate, kinda, the Spartans will unveil their new jerseys for the Hockey City Classic.
Michigan State is 527-210-62 at Munn.
Jason Ruff is the host of Behind the Mask for Impact Sports
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports