EAST LANSING- The Michigan State (14-5-4) hockey team hits the road this weekend for a pair of games in Columbus against Ohio State (7-15-2). The Buckeye's enter the weekend with only three conference wins and find themselves at the bottom of the standings.
"Ohio State's a funny team, they struggle but can play very well at times," said Spartan coach Rick Comley.
The Spartans are currently unbeaten on the road in conference play (5-0-1) and hold the upper hand in the all time series with Ohio State (75-20-7) despite only winning six of the
last 16 meetings.
Michigan State is coming off a successful weekend against Notre Dame with a win and a tie. The weekend gives the Spartans 22 points in the CCHA standings. They now trail conference leaders Michigan and Miami by just four points.
"I stress to them there is only 14 games left, every game is a big game," said Comley. "Every win is critical."
Against the Irish, Michigan State was led by junior goalie Jeff Lerg, who earned his second consecutive CCHA Goaltender of the Week award for his play last weekend. Lerg stopped 64 of 66 shots and boasts a .935 save percentage in CCHA play, which is the best in the conference.
Ohio State is powered offensively by a pair of seniors in forward Matt Mcllvane along with former Spartan Tommy Goble. Goble has 19 points this season and is only one point shy of 100 for his career. The Buckeyes also get strong goalie play from Joseph Palmer, who played in the World Junior Championships this year.
A key for the Spartans this weekend will be to limit scoring chances on Lerg, who has 400 saves in conference play, the most of any goalie.
Against Notre Dame, the Spartans were badly outshot. This weekend in Columbus, generating more shots and scoring chances would not only take pressure off Lerg, but also allow talented defensemen like Mike Ratchuk and Jeff Petry to take some chances and get involved offensively.
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