Spartan Icers Ready To Battle Wolverines

The No.6 rated Michigan State hockey team will be facing the No. 11 ranked Michigan Wolverines this Friday to see who will advance in the CCHA playoffs this week. GSN takes a look at what has gone right in this series for MSU, and what the Spartans need to do to get past the Wolverines.

OKEMOS,MI- Michigan State must battle the Wolverines at the Joe this Friday night, and it might help to look at the previous season series to help the Spartans advance in the CCHA playoffs.

For the Spartans, who are 22-11-8, and coming off a series victory over Alaska-Fairbanks, they must get ready to battle the Wolverines, who are 20-13-5, and coming off their own playoff victory over Ferris State. It was UM's first series sweep since December 10th.

So far in the season series between the Spartans and the Wolverines, the Spartans own a slight 1-0-3 record advantage over Michigan.

The Spartans and the Wolverines tied 3-3 on October 22nd, and beat the Wolverines 2-0 in East Lansing on January 17th. On January 27th and 28th the two teams tied again 1-1, and 5-5 respectively.

For the Spartans, they will be closely looking at those games to get an advantage. And while they haven't loss to the Wolverines, they haven't dominated them either.

Therefore MSU is looking for an advantage and the stats speak clearly in this respect so far.

For the most part, MSU has shut down some of the biggers guns on the UM roster. Leading scorer TJ Hensick, and star Jack Johnson have not scored a goal against MSU this year.

However, in contrast to that, UM's Brandon Kaleniecki has scored four goals, Andrew Cogliano has scored two goals and has two assists, Andrew Ebbett has a goal and two assists, and Mark Mitera and Chad Kolarik have three assists this year against the Spartans.

MSU coach Rick Comley will have to be careful of his line changes, and especially keep an eye on these previously mentioned guys.

In the (+/-) category, UM's big guns have struggled as well, as Kevin Porter is minus four, Jack Johnson a minus three, Travis Turnbull a minus three, and TJ Hensick a minus three. So MSU has made these guys play defense a little bit and burned the Wolverines.

For the Spartans, Tyler Howells has three goals and an assist, David Booth has two goals and two assists, Corey Potter has three assists, Chris Mueller, Drew Miller, and Bryan Lerg both have a goal and an assist, and Justin Abdelkader and Jim McKenzie both have two assists against UM.

However, outside of Bran Lerg's +5 and Ethan Graham's +3, nobody on MSU's team has more than a +1 against UM and their high powered offense.

All of UM's big guns got untracked versus Ferris State last week, including TJ Hensick, so the Spartans need to turn it up a notch. Henson scored two goals in the series as did Kaleniecki.

While MSU must continue it's solid defense against Hensick and Johnson, they obviously need to shadow a guy like Kaleniecki a little bit more than usual.

UM is first in the CCHA in goals per game at 3.64. UM also ranks third in the CCHA in power play percentage (.185) and penalty kill percentage at (.865)

MSU can counteract those numbers with the second best defense in the CCHA in terms of goals against with an average of 2.36. The Spartans also have a have a decent power play, being ranked second in the CCHA at .190 per game. The Spartans also rank 1st in penalty minutes, only taking 15.2 minute's per game.

Looking at the goalies, UM's Noah Ruden is their top goaltender with a 9-7-1 record and a 2.85 goal against average and a save percentage of .908. Ruden is 0-2 against the Spartans. UM also has Billy Sauer in the nets, and he has earned three ties against the Spartans but has given up nine goals in those three games.

MSU counters with the impressive Jeff Lerg, who has a 14-5-6 record, with 2.02 goals against and a .925 save percentage. Dominic Vicari is also a capable of stepping up in a pinch and has been only been displaced by Jeff Lerg's hot goaltending. Vicari has a 8-6-2 record and a 2.62 goals against average, and a .896 save percentage.

Game time is set for 8:05pm on Friday night. The winner will play the winner of the Miami and Northern Michigan game for the CCHA Championship.

The Championship game is scheduled for 7:05pm on Saturday night. The loser will play in the consolation game at 3:35pm on Saturday afternoon. FSN Detroit will carry both Semifinal games and the Championship game.

GSN will have more on this exciting CCHA series at the Joe this weekend so stay tuned.

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