EAST LANSING- Michigan State (17-5-5) hockey returns to the cold floor this weekend with a pair of home games against Nebraska-Omaha (11-12-3).
"We're 17-5-5 and we've had a really good year, but (it's) the darn ties that haunt us," coach Rick Comley said. "Until we're safe nationally, I consider every game critical."
Michigan State has dominated the all-time series with Nebraska-Omaha, posting a 17-8-1 record against the Mavericks overall and a 3-0-1 mark last season.
The Spartans are red-hot. They own an eight game unbeaten streak and haven't lost in conference play in twelve contests. This weekend they run into a Nebraska-Omaha team that has been excellent on the road, winning their last five contests away from home.
The Spartans and goalie Jeff Lerg are coming off a successful weekend against arch-rival Michigan, beating the previously top-ranked Wolverines in Ann Arbor then salvaging a tie in East Lansing. Lerg, stellar in net again against Michigan, recently earned his fourth consecutive CCHA Goaltender of the Week award and was also selected as January's CCHA Player of the Month. He has a .925 save percentage and 2.17 goals against average in 26 starts (16-5-5).
Brad Marshall leads the Mavericks, a powerful offensive team, in scoring. He is second in the CCHA with 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists). Marshall is also a big part of a Mavericks power play unit that leads the CCHA, scoring almost 25% of the time with the man advantage.
Michigan State will have to employ a similar strategy to stopping Marshall that they did against the nation's top scorer Kevin Porter last weekend. The Spartans played physical against Porter and were able to hold him scoreless.
Michigan State will attempt to exploit the Maverick's weaknesses on defense. UNO ranks 11th in the conference in scoring defense, allowing more then three goals a game on average.
Spartan forward Tim Kennedy will look to get back on track this weekend. He is the team's leading point scorer with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists), however, he has not lit the lamp since December 1 against Lake Superior. Despite not being able to find the net, he has seven assists in the last nine games.
Offensive production from Kennedy and fellow forward Tim Crowder, who led the team in scoring in January with nine points, will be vital for the Spartans. If Michigan State can exploit the Mavericks defense and continue to lean on great goaltending from Lerg, they should have a good chance to sweep the weekend and extend their unbeaten streak to ten games.
When: Friday: 7:05 p.m / Saturday: 4:05 p.m.
Where: Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing
Television: FSN Detroit (Sat.)
Radio: WJIM 1240 AM (Fri.) / WVFN 730 AM (Sat.)
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Spartans Look to Continue Hot Streak
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