EAST LANSING – The Michigan State Spartans completed their first Big 10 series of the season this past weekend going 1-1 against then No. 10 Ohio State. In this article, I want to look at how the Spartans have fared through the first two weeks of the young season, as well as share three takeaways from their series against the Buckeyes:
1. Faceoffs are playing an essential role in the Spartans’ success
Heading into the weekend, MSU was coming off an outstanding performance in the faceoff circle against Arizona State, winning 58.3% of their draws. Leading the Spartans was Tommy Apap who won 62% of his draws. Apap was second in the Big 10 last year in faceoff percentage.
Against the Buckeyes, the Spartans again took control of the faceoff circle, winning almost 65% of their draws. Josh Nodler led the Spartans; he won 26 out of 37 faceoffs in the series.
Nodler boasts a 64.8% win rate on faceoffs, while freshman Kristoff Papp, who centers the second forward line with Mitch Lewandowski and Nico Muller, has an equally impressive 63.6% win rate.
The Spartans will need to continue dominating the faceoff circle in order to play their style of game, which relies heavily on puck possession as well as mitigating dangerous scoring chances for opposing teams. Both Apap and Nodler have been crucial to the Spartans’ success in controlling the puck as well as the pace of play.
2. There are plenty of points to go around
Against the Buckeyes, MSU had 11 different players record points. The Spartans’ fourth line of Adam Goodsir, Mitchell Mattson, and Kyle Haskins was integral in helping MSU generate some consistent offense against OSU.
This pairing combined for two out of the Spartans’ five goals against OSU, including Mattson’s second goal of the year and Goodsir’s first.
Through the first four games of the season, the Spartans have had 13 players record points. The Spartans’ fourth line has all three forwards tied for the team lead in points with three each.
Among the team leaders in points is graduate transfer Charlie Combs, who is tied for first on the team with two goals scored.
The Spartans are also getting point production from their youngest members as well. Freshman Kyle Haskins, A.J. Hodges, and Kristoff Papp have all recorded points in their first four games.
The Spartans will need to continue to get production from some of their younger guys to fill the scoring void that was left with the graduation of Patrick Khoderenko, Sam Saliba and others
3. Penalty kill rate takes a hit
Heading into last weekend, the Spartans were perfect on the penalty kill, successfully killing seven penalties. That, however, took a small hit against the Buckeyes whose lackluster power play showed signs of life in their Game 2 victory over the Spartans.
Overall, the Spartans committed eight penalties over the weekend and their average of 8.5 penalty minutes per game places them at No. 8 in the nation. Not exactly a great mark
In Game 1, the Spartans killed off three OSU power plays and kept a struggling Buckeye offense at bay. In Game 2, however, the Spartans committed five penalties and Christian Krygier’s interference penalty led to a game-winning power-play goal that was scored by Ohio State’s Grant Gabriele.
Though the Spartans are effective on the penalty kill at an 86.7% kill rate, having the No.8 most penalized team in the nation will continue to put them in troubling situations.
Michigan State (2-1-1) takes on No. 5 Minnesota (4-0-0) in their second Big 10 series of the year on Thursday, Dec. 3 and Friday, Dec.4 at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, Michigan.