And then there were eight.
The Michigan State Spartans have been playing better hockey over the last month, and they were finally rewarded with a road series victory in Alaska. Their reward for that success was a very short week of practice and a road series at the CCHA Champion Miami Red Hawks.
Some reward eh?
The Spartans enter the weekend with a 13-23-3 overall record. Since the loss on February 8th at Bowling Green, Michigan State is 6-4. Miami enters the weekend with a 22-9-5 overall record, #3 overall ranking, and in position to potentially get a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Miami last played on March 1st and 2nd in a weekend split against Ohio State. That split earned Miami the final CCHA championship. I'm sure they'd like nothing more than to win the last Mason Cup as well, knocking out at least one Big Ten foe along the way.
Michigan State leads the all-time series 68-32-6 and that includes a 28-14-3 record in Miami. The problem is Miami has dominated the series of late going 6-0-1 over the last 7 games. This includes a 2 game play-off sweep in last year's CCHA quarterfinals and taking five of six points this year in the season series. Michigan State tied Miami in Oxford 2-2 in the first game this year, and Miami won the second game 2-0. Miami won the shoot-out on Friday as well.
This was one of those series last season that quite a few MSU fans thought the Red Hawks simply presented a bad match-up for Michigan State. Well, they may have been right since Miami dominated the play-off series.
Given the very short week of prep work MSU had, the odds certainly are stacked up against Michigan State. Last weekend we mentioned how the playoffs present an opportunity for a second chance, to remake your ending if your season didn't go according to plan. Michigan State still has that opportunity this weekend to rewrite their ending. Whether they win or lose, you know they are going to lay their heart on the line and give it their best shot. With Yanakeff and Hildebrand, if both goalies are sharp this weekend, the Spartans will be in the game. It's going to be important to stick around, be pesky, and make them earn everything.
They have nothing to lose at this point, and Bowling Green did it last year from the #11 spot. This Spartan team can do it too.
Miami Leading Scorers:
Riley Barber 15 goals, 36 points
Austin Czarnik 11 goals, 33 points
Curtis McKenzie 9 goals, 22 points
Matthew Caito 5 goals, 18 points
Marc Hagel 5 goals, 17 points
Jay Williams 12-5-3, 1.89 GAA, .926 save %
Ryan McKay 10-4-2, 1.17 GAA, .957 save %
Miami Offense: 5th - 2.53 GPG
MSU Defense: 8th - 2.74 GAPG
Miami Defense: 1st - 1.61 GAPG
MSU Offense: 11th - 2.10 GPG
Miami Power Play: 5th - 15.8%
MSU Penalty Kill: T-7th - 83.9%
MSU Penalty Minutes: 2nd least - 12.2 PIM/G
Miami Penalty Kill: 2nd - 88.6%
Miami Penalty Minutes: 3rd most - 13.9 PIM/G
MSU Power Play: 10th - 13.4%
Game 1 Box Score // Game 1 Recap
Game 2 Box Score // Game 2 Recap
Miami is the clear favorite in this one. There aren't going to be many people, if any outside of East Lansing, that will pick MSU to win this series or even a game in this series. The poll on the right hand side seems to show some confident (or crazy) Spartan fans. But this is why you play the game. No one gave Bowling Green a chance to do it last year. There weren't many people that gave MSU a chance last weekend. Legs are going to be a concern this weekend, which is going to make the start very important. If the Spartans score early, it certainly will give them a lot of confidence, and that pesky underdog can go to work again. In any case, the Spartans simply need to work hard for 60 minutes in each game, and if needed, let the goaltending take over. Then who knows what that pesky underdog is capable of doing. Anything is possible, and it's why games are won on the ice and not on paper.
Friday's game is scheduled to start at 7:35 pm. Saturday and if needed Sunday's game is scheduled at 7:05 pm. All the games can be heard on 730 am or the Spartan Sports Network