Thursday, February 28, 2013

Know Thy Enemy - Western Michigan & The End of an Era

Well, the end has finally come. This weekend Michigan State will celebrate the careers of five Spartans: Kevin Walrod, Matt Grassi, Chris Forfar, Anthony Hayes, and Zach Golembiewski. In addition, this marks the end of an era for Michigan State, Western Michigan, and college hockey. It's the final regular season weekend in the history of the CCHA. Michigan State will join the Big Ten conference next season, and Western Michigan will be joining the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with fellow CCHA member Miami.

In the meantime, the Spartans are looking to end the regular season on a high note, potentially move up the CCHA standings, and prevent Western Michigan from clinching the CCHA championship. Though, Western will need a lot of help as Miami only needs two points for an outright championship. Miami takes on Ohio State this weekend.

Western Michigan is 18-8-8 overall with a 14-6-6-3 CCHA mark (2nd place). They sit one point ahead of Notre Dame for second place, and the Broncos cannot finish worse than third in the CCHA standings. Michigan State comes into the weekend with three straight splits posting a 10-21-3 overall record and an 8-17-1-0 CCHA mark (11th place). The Spartans could finish as high as ninth place with a lot of help. Right now MSU would be heading to Alaska for the first round of the playoffs. The Spartans need Bowling Green to sweep a road series at Notre Dame to bump Alaska from sixth place, or MSU needs to earn four more points than Northern Michigan or sweep Western and have Ferris sweep Michigan in order to move up the CCHA standings.

Western is actually on a five game winless streak right now. Their last win came on February 8th against Miami, a 2-0 victory. Western is 0-2-3 since that point. Speaking of streaks, Michigan State is unbeaten in three games against the Broncos (2-0-1). The Spartans swept Western last year in Kalamazoo, and the two teams battled to a 1-1 draw in the GLI semi-final round earlier this year. Matt Berry tied that game with only 16 seconds remaining. The Spartans hold a 63-29-9 all-time record against Western and that includes a 33-5-6 mark at Munn Ice Arena. The last time the two teams met in East Lansing was on October 30, 2009.

Both games are scheduled to start at 7:05 pm and can be seen on Comcast (Channel 900) or heard on 1240 am or the Spartan Sports Network. For those attending on Saturday, senior night festivities are scheduled to begin at 6:45 pm.

Broncos Leading Scorers

Dane Walters   12 goals, 23 points
Chase Balisy    9 goals, 22 points
Kenney Morrison  7 goals, 18 points
Shane Berschbach  3 goals, 17 points
Mike Leone  6 goals, 16 points
Mike Cichy  4 goals, 16 points
Dennis Brown 3 goals, 16 points


Frank Slubowski  18-8-8, 1.87 GAA, .922 save %

Western is 5-5-4 on the road this season.

Western's best period is the 3rd where they hold a +11 goal advantage.

Western's offense is ranked 11th in the CCHA (2.29 GPG), but their defense is ranked 2nd (1.94 GPG). Despite the lack of offensive firepower 5 on 5, Western's power play ranks 2nd in the CCHA at 18.1%, and their PK ranks 3rd at 86.4%. By comparison, MSU ranks 12th in offense (2.12 GPG), 9th on defense (2.76 GPG), 9th on the power play (12.3%), and 8th on the PK (83.2%).

Series Thoughts

Northern plays LSSU at home, so you would think they would manage three points on the weekend. Michigan plays at home against Ferris, so you think they would earn at least one point. BGSU probably isn't going to sweep Notre Dame in South Bend. The point of all this is, the odds are Michigan State is going to be heading back to Alaska - even if MSU manages to sweep Western, which most people won't believe they can do. However, the Spartans did hang around Western at the GLI, and the Broncos aren't exactly lighting the world on fire on offense. If the Spartans can manage to put together six periods this weekend, they'll be in position to take points, and that could lead to some momentum heading into the playoffs. 

That is all that really matters at this point. Putting together two games on a weekend to add some much needed confidence that the Spartans could be a dangerous team in the post season. Yanakeff played very well last weekend, and Hildebrand has played well most of the season, so the Spartans have a pair of goaltenders capable of stealing a game in the playoffs. 

Let's see if they can get something going this weekend, and who knows what could happen.....


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