When: Friday 7 p.m. / Saturday 6 p.m.
Where: Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, Michigan.
Television: Friday-Fox Sports Detroit / Saturday- Big Ten Network
Stream: Friday and Saturday btn2go.com
The Lions are 6-0-2 over the past eight games and hitting their full-stride at the midway point in the B1G conference schedule. The team has enjoyed home cooking for over a month, having played the past eleven games either at the Peg or neutral sites within Pennsylvania.
Goal-tending will be a focal point in this match-up. On the Spartans' side, the starting goalie spot has been set in stone since the first game with Jake Hildebrand. For Penn State, any of their three goalies may take the ice, as all three of PJ Music, Eamon McAdam and Matt Skoff have recorded four or more wins this year.
Three weeks ago, Penn State won the series against MSU at Pegula on teh strength of a tie and a win. Since then the Spartans have won three out of four games and pulled away from the bottom of the pack in the B1G standings, currently sitting in 4th place. With 16 points in league play the team is ten points ahead of 5th place Ohio State and eight points behind B1G leader Michigan. The team is still playing for a top-two regular season finish and the first round bye in the B1G tournament that comes with it.
A series win for MSU could result in the team standing in 2nd place at the end of the weekend. This is a pivotal series for Sparty, as dropping two games at home would all but end any hopes of a top-two spot.
Outstanding net-minder Jake Hildebrand allowed only two goals total over the three-game winning streak that followed the PSU series. He is one of the best in the college game and he is hot right now. Overall this season, the junior goalie has allowed two or fewer goals in half of the team's games. Only twice in the past eight games has he allowed more than two goals, and those two instances were against Michigan and Penn State, two of the highest-scoring teams in the nation.
Nothing has changed from a strategic standpoint since the teams last met. The Spartans will try to keep the game low-scoring, using all five skaters to protect the star goalie. PSU will have the full attention of their hosts as well. Defenseman Ron Boyd said this of his team's mindset coming into the series.
"I think our guys went into the game thinking like we were playing the old Penn State from last year. They're a much different team. We have to realize they're ranked No. 19 in the nation. We have to come out with the mentality that they're an (NCAA) tournament contender."
It's interesting to have this idea confirmed by an opposing player, that Penn State to a certain extent had been taking teams by surprise in the early going of conference play. Last week, the Nittany Lions dispatched a Wisconsin team that knew full-well what to expect. It's not impossible to believe that the Spartans may find the knowledge gained in the first series useless as well.
The Spartans may be forced to play without the fourth-leading scorer Brent Darnell. He is doubtful for the series since picking up a leg injury after falling into the boards awkwardly last weekend.
- In other B1G action, Michigan and Minnesota face off for a pair in Mariucci arena.
- The comment section of this article will be used as the open-thread discussion during the game.
- Check out the 8th installment of the Penn State hockey story.