PREVIEW: Michigan State hockey travels to Wisconsin with the regular season title on the line

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Emily Martin/Spartan Sports Report

This week, the Michigan State hockey team, currently sitting at No. 1 in the Big Ten rankings, will travel to the University of Wisconsin to compete in their last regular season series against the Badgers who currently hold No. 2 in the Big Ten. 

Not only is this their last game of the regular season, but it also holds a bit of weight over their heads. This matchup has a Big Ten regular season championship title on the line. What this means is that Michigan State only needs three points to take the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State is currently sitting two points above Wisconsin. 

“I’m really excited about it […] Wisconsin has had an unbelievable year and I think for our guys, this whole development path and opportunity, obviously we would love the chance to do it at home in front of our fans,” Head Coach Adam Nightingale said. 

With that, it is important to remember how they got into this position. 

This past weekend, the Spartans took on the Ohio State Buckeyes for their last set of home games of the regular season at Munn Ice Arena, splitting the weekend. Friday night the Spartans suffered a rough four-point deficit, falling to the Buckeyes 6-2. Fortunately, Michigan State was able to bring it back for Saturday’s matchup, defeating OSU 5-2. 

After a bye week, the Spartans were eager to get back onto the ice for competition but may have had their hopes a little too high. On Friday, MSU took the first goal of the night but was not able to bounce back, as the Buckeyes dominated the rest of the game. The Spartans are known for their skill and speed but may have played a bit “too pretty” as mentioned by Nightingale. 

Luckily, they dialed it in as they do best, and were able to come away with a massive 5-2 win Saturday night, which was also senior night. MSU, known for their traditions, honored seniors Nash Nienhuis, Jeremy Davidson, Nico Muller, Reed Lebster, James Crossman, and Jon Mor for their hard work, determination, and accomplishments during their time with the MSU hockey team following their win against rival Ohio State. 

The rival competition resulted in a five-point game, three of which were power play goals; two of them back to back in the second period by freshman forward Gavin O’Connell and sophomore forward Isaac Howard during a five-minute major. MSU was noted for its strength in power play strategy which has shined bright all season.

“It was huge,” fifth-year forward Nico Muller celebrated. “With the five-minute major, you’ve got to execute and we got two out of it, so it was a great power play that was executed […] and was a major shift in the game I thought.”

Their high spirits have carried over into this week, as the Spartans prepare to take on the Wisconsin Badgers for the last matchup of the regular season. 

MSU faced Wisconsin at the beginning of the season in November, successfully sweeping the weekend. At the time, Wisconsin was ranked No. 1 overall, and was the first time MSU had defeated a No. 1 team since 2009. This was also Wisconsin’s first Big Ten loss of the season. On the first night, MSU walked away with a 4-2 win against the Badgers, and a 3-2 win the next night. This set the Spartans off on a high note for the rest of the season, staying near the top of the Big Ten rankings. 

They will take the ice in Madison, Wisconsin this Friday and Saturday at 9 pm in hopes of coming away with a Big Ten title and a prime spot in the Big Ten Tournament next week.

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