EAST LANSING, MI - This weekend Michigan State, fresh off a sweep of Colgate, will open CCHA play at home against instate foe Northern Michigan.
Michigan State has won four straight in this series and holds a 27-18-2 advantage in the all time record.
The beginning of conference play marks a critical time for this years Spartans.
"A big goal for this team is to do really well in the league this year and you cant give games away early on in the season," Senior Defenseman Dan Vukovic said "moving into conference games is always a bit harder, a bit more physical."
Under Rick Comley, Michigan State has gotten off to some slow starts in conference play as they search for an identity and the right chemistry.
This past weekend Comley experimented with some different line combinations, splitting up longtime line mates Bryan Lerg and Chris Mueller. The switch paid off as Lerg and his two new line mates Matt Schepke and Dustin Gazely were responsible for four of the Spartans six goals on Friday.
This weekends opponent Northern Michigan is a young hockey team coached by former NHL assistant Walt Kyle. The Wildcats come to East Lansing with a 1-3 record and will look to bounce back from a weekend sweep at the hands of Michigan.
Players to Watch
Northern Michigan Junior Forward Nick Sirota.
Sirota leads the Wildcats this season with five points, three of which came last week against the Wolverines. Sirota, a right handed shot appeared in just 20 games last year and is expected to have an expanded role on this years very young Wildcat team that contains 15 underclassman.
Michigan State Junior Forward Tim Crowder
Crowder is yet to find the back of the net in 2007 however does have a pair of assists. Last Saturday Crowder and his line mates Abdelkader and Kennedy returned to last years form combining for both Spartan goals. Look for Crowder and the rest of the Spartans top line to have a big series if the Green-and-White are to sweep.
Keys to Victory
NMU- For the young Wildcats to win they must avoid early penalties and try to take the Munn crowd out of the game early. They will need solid play from goaltender Brian Stewart who has a 3.77 GAA this season in four games. Along with contributions from their talented freshman Phil Fox and Jared Brown who will get their first taste of life away from home in the CCHA.
MSU- The winning formula is simple the Spartans need to avoid the penalty box. This is something that has been difficult for them this year accumulating 50 minutes in the box through three games. Michigan State will need to continue to get strong play from its older players like Mueller and Lerg well the freshman learn on the fly.
Friday MSU 4-NMU 2
Saturday MSU 3-NMU 3
Spartans Hope to Start CCHA Play Strong
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