Spartans Open Big Ten Play Against Penn State

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After an unfortunate stint in non-conference play, Michigan State finally starts Big Ten play this weekend as they travel to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. After being swept by No.4 North Dakota last weekend, the Spartans sit at 4-7-2 on the season.

“Obviously we were disappointed after last weekend,” Spartan captain Michael Ferrantino said. “You never want to lose at home obviously and get swept. I think we’re disappointed, but one thing about this group, we’ve got such an older group now and I don’t think our confidence has wavered too much. We know we have a good team, we’re still confident in our abilities and were confident that this team can be great.”

The Spartans have been great against the Nittany Lions. They have gone 6-2-2 in the all-time series and 2-1-1 last season. However, Penn State looks to be a lot better than they were in years past. They currently hold one of the Big Ten’s best records at 8-2-3.

Just like last weekend, the Spartans will face another tough opponent in Penn State. Coach Guy Gadowski’s team is unbeaten in their last six games, going 4-0-2, and they’re even better at home as they carry a 5-2-1 record.

“They compete every minute of the game,” junior forward Mackenzie MacEachern said. “They’re a team that likes to get a lot of shots on net and that’s gonna create a lot of opportunities. So if we can shut that down and be good in the d-zone I think we’ll be able to control their scoring threat.”

The Spartans will need to slow down the scoring of Penn State if they want to have a shot at success this weekend. Nittany Lion forwards Chase Berger (9G, 5A) and Curtis Loik (4G, 10A) are tied for the team lead in points. Penn State also ranks fourth in the country in team offense, averaging 4.15 goals per game.

But it doesn’t stop there. Penn State’s power play currently ranks second in the nation, scoring on the man-advantage in 17 of their 56 attempts. Junior forward Dylan Richard leads the team as well as the nation with five power power play goals.

As good as Penn State’s power play is, the Michigan State penalty kill also very strong. The Spartans hold the ninth-ranked power play spot in the nation, killing 42 of the 47 penalty kill opportunities they have had. The Penn State power play against the Michigan State penalty kill will be an interesting matchup to follow this weekend.

One of the areas of the game in which Michigan State will need to get better is learning to play a full sixty minute game. After giving up two late goals to tie the game against Michigan Tech and two straight goals that changed the momentum of the game against North Dakota, the Spartans will need to compete for the entire game against Penn State and not let up until the final whistle.

“I think part of it is just the mentality,” Ferrantino said. “If we’re playing with a lead, what got us there? Not just playing to not lose the lead. Also, I think the experience we’ve had playing close games against tough teams will help us.”

With mistakes made and lessons learned, the Spartans now have a fresh start to work with as they move into conference play. Despite the disappointing record they carry into the Big Ten season, the Spartans know they are a good team and can compete when it comes to a wide-open Big Ten race.

“It’s the start of the new season, so to speak, and it’s exciting from our team’s perspective,” coach Tom Anastos said. “We’ve been looking forward to this getting started and now it’s here.”

The Spartans’ series with Penn State will get underway from Pegula Ice Arena on Friday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. The second game will take place Saturday, Dec. 5 at 3 p.m.