Think Duke-North Carolina in basketball. Then you might begin to understand this rivalry on ice.
It's the most played rivalry in college hockey.
The rivalry pits families against each other, and even though the hockey rivalry might not carry the public weight the football and basketball rivalries do. It's probably the most even over its history. Both teams have tasted quite a bit of success winning multiple national and CCHA titles, along with numerous Frozen Four appearances.
Think it's not important? Michigan State played in the 1998 regional at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor against Ohio State. The weekend before, MSU beat Ohio State to win the CCHA Tournament title. These two teams met again, in Ann Arbor with a Frozen Four bid on the line. MSU swept Michigan in the season series that year. Ever see a Michigan fan openly root for Ohio State? If you were at Yost that day, you would have. The packed house of Maize & Blue cheered wildly when the Buckeyes upset the Spartans in overtime.
Michigan fans like to call MSU "FYS" when they come to Yost Ice Arena (in the interest of keeping this blog FCC compliant, you will have to use your imagination to figure out what the F stands for).
They've met 287 times. Michigan holds a slim 18 game edge over that span (144-124-19), but Michigan State has controlled the series at Munn (63-48-10). It's tight at the Joe as well, with Michigan holding a 23-18-5 edge.
And we joke it's so intense, the two schools can't even agree on what the all-time series is. Michigan State counts five more games in the series, which actually favors the Wolverines (4-1 in those five games).
Behind Enemy Lines
Michigan comes into the weekend with a 17-9-4 overall and 11-7-4-1 CCHA record. The Wolverines are 3rd in the CCHA with 38 points (just 3 points ahead of Michigan State). The Spartans have done very well against Top 5 ranked teams this season. MSU is 4-1-1 this year against (then) ranked Top 5 teams. Michigan comes in at #4 in the USCHO.com poll.
The Wolverines come in riding quite the streak. Michigan is 10-1-1 over their last 12 games, and that includes a win at tie against MSU back in December.
Alex Guptill 14 goals, 27 points
Chris Brown 11 goals, 27 points (suspended for Friday Night)
David Wohlberg 11 goals, 26 points
Lee Moffie 5 goals, 26 points
A.J. Treais 11 goals, 19 points
Between the Pipes
Shawn Hunwick 17-8-3, 2.05 GAA, .932 save %
Michigan 3.40 goals/game (1st CCHA)
Michigan State 3.13 goals/game (2nd CCHA)
Michigan 2.23 goals allowed/game (1st CCHA)
Michigan State 2.63 goals allowed/game (8th CCHA)
Michigan 16.1% (19 for 118, 7th CCHA)
Michigan State 15.9% (18 for 113, 8th CCHA)
Michigan 84.3% (107 for 127, 7th CCHA)
Michigan State 89.1% (106 for 119, 1st CCHA)
These two teams aren't penalized too much, as both come in under 14 minutes per a game, so it'll be interesting to see if either team can take advantage of the power play opportunities that come in this game. It will be important to play with controlled emotion as well. Michigan has posted some pretty good numbers 5 on 5, but Michigan State actually has fair well in the offense end as well.
The Bottom Line
This is a very big late season series in the CCHA. Both teams actually still have CCHA title hopes in a tight CCHA race. Michigan has to believe if they can get through this weekend with five or six points that they will have a very good shot at winning the CCHA title. They host Northern next weekend and end the year at last place Bowling Green. On the other hand, Michigan State is looking to move up the CCHA standings, and with a great weekend, they could find themselves near the top of the league. The road in is a little tougher for MSU finishing with a home series against Alaska and a road series against Notre Dame.
Munn and Joe Louis Arena certainly will be rocking. SRO tickets remain at Munn Ice Arena for Friday's 7:35 pm face-off showcased on the Big Ten Network. Saturday's 7:35 pm game will be carried on Fox Sports Detroit.
It's time for the next chapter in the rivalry. Voice your opinion with the poll on the right. How many points will Michigan State come away with this weekend?