After a week of temperatures near 100 degrees and a weekend ahead that will see highs back in the 90s, it's the perfect time to cool off with a little puck talk.
Michigan State's 2012 - 2013 Schedule
Looking ahead to the 2012-13 campaign, the Spartan Icers are looking to build on momentum from last season's NCAA appearance and top 5 CCHA finish. While the year didn't end on the high note that everyone was hoping for, the team clearly made strides in Coach Anastos' initial season at the helm. The Spartans recruiting has picked up as more Spartans were picked in the NHL draft this year than has been in the last few years.
Things are looking up.
So now, let's take a look at the 2012 - 2013 schedule to see which games/series really peak our interest. Here's a look at my top 10:
#10 Alaska Series: February 22-23, 2013
This is the last CCHA road series in Michigan State history. It might also mark the last time MSU goes out to Alaska for a regular season game, since the Nanooks will be joining the WCHA. Will this be good-bye to flying polar bears forever?
Is this the last we'll see of these intros?
#9 at Michigan: November 9, 2012
This game marks the start of a very difficult stretch (Michigan, Miami, OSU, Notre Dame, Ferris State) to close out the 2012 CCHA schedule. It's the first trip to Yost of the season, and of course it's simply Michigan.
#8 Miami Series: November 16-17, 2012
The Spartans travel to Oxford once again this year. Miami knocked Michigan State out of the CCHA playoffs last year, and this is always a good test to see where you stand in the CCHA. Even though MSU opens the CCHA schedule on the road at LSSU, this series figures to be a little tougher.
#7 CCHA Quarterfinal Series: March 15-17, 2013
Granted, MSU needs to get here first, but if they do, this could be the biggest series in Anastos' young tenure here in East Lansing. The Spartans have not made it to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA playoffs since 2007. Home ice would be key to help break that streak, but it'll be a tall task for a team that is looking to replace quite a bit on the blue line. This would require a top four finish in the CCHA standings, it's certainly doable given the work ethic and young talent that this squad has. A trip to the Joe would potentially assure MSU of a second straight NCAA bid (assuming they finish top four in the CCHA).
#6 Notre Dame Home Series: January 11-12, 2013
Notre Dame comes to East Lansing for the first time since January 16, 2010. The Irish figure to have a strong team this year, and this marks the start of a very key stretch of games in which MSU plays five of six at home (ending with the Penn State series). the two teams split the season finale series last year. That split sent MSU on the road to Oxford for the playoffs in the CCHA Quarterfinals.
#5 Season Opener at Minnesota: October 12-13, 2012
The 2012 - 2013 Spartans will be thrown into the fire right out of the gate as they travel to Minneapolis for a pair against Big 10 rival Minnesota. The Spartans stunned #3 Minnesota last year with a 4-3 victory and 4-4 tie at Munn Ice Arena to win the Bessone-Mariucci trophy. This series really sent a message to the rest of college hockey that maybe the Spartans were for real. The 2011-12 season ended in the program's first NCAA bid since 2008. Another strong showing this weekend could signal another strong year ahead for Michigan State hockey. This series will be big as well for the PairWise rankings, as Minnesota figures to be the best quality non-conference opponent the Spartans see all year.
#4 Western Michigan Series: March 1-2, 2013
A bittersweet day in the history of Michigan State Ice Hockey. It's the final CCHA series in Spartan history. The Spartans have been part of the CCHA since the 1981-1982 season , they've won 7 CCHA regular season titles (2nd most) and 11 tournament titles (most in the league). Despite the history, MSU hasn't won a CCHA regular season title since 2001 or a tournament title since 2006, so here's hoping this series there is some celebrating going on, and it leads into a great March.
#3 Penn State Series: January 25-26, 2013
The Land Grant Trophy will be on the line in January as Penn State and Michigan State will face-off for the first time ever in a division 1 hockey game. Hey, the football teams aren't scheduled to face each other, so why not put the trophy on the ice (and have someone take a slapshot to it). In all seriousness, it will be great to see the sixth Big 10 school at Munn Icea Arena as we move towards the hockey conference for the 2013-2014 season.
#2 vs. Michigan: November 10, 2012
It goes without saying that the MSU-UM hockey rivalry is one of the best in the country. Michigan makes their only trip up to Munn Ice Arena on November 10th on a back end of a home and home series with Michigan. The two teams meet up again in early February for the Yost/JLA portion of the series.
#1 2012 Great Lakes Invitational @ Comerica Park (vs. WMU, UM/Tech): December 28-29, 2012
The 2012 hockey calendar comes to a close (assuming the Mayans are incorrect) with a return to hockey roots - outdoor hockey at Comerica Park. Yes, the outdoor thing has been done before, but it never ceases to amaze people as it continues to be a big draw. While this might be the undercard of the week (with Toronto at Detroit in Ann Arbor being the main event on New Year's Day), the 2012 GLI looks to be a good one as it features four Michigan schools for the first time since 1999 (MSU, UM, LSSU, Tech). Western Michigan and Michigan State will face-off in the first semi-final, with Michigan and Michigan Tech being the other.